KK Shailaja dropped from new LDF government in Kerala

Our Bureau Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on May 18, 2021

KK Shailaja, Kerala Health Minister   -  The Hindu

A 21-member team will be sworn in on Thursday, MB Rajesh will be the new Speaker

In a major surprise, KK Shailaja, who made a mark as Health Minister in the outgoing government led by Pinarayi Vijayan, has been omitted from the new Council of Ministers that he will lead for a second term in Kerala, featuring a team of fresh faces or even first-time Assembly members.

The new Left Democratic Front (LDF) government will be sworn in on Thursday afternoon. The 21-member team includes 12 members of the CPI(M) and four of the CPI, with a woman member from each. MB Rajesh, a former MP, will be the new Speaker, while minister-elect K Radhakrishnan has been a former Speaker himself.

First time for new government

This is the first time that any government in Kerala will feature an entirely new team, except for the Chief Minister. It was widely speculated that Shailaja will be retained in the new Cabinet thanks to the appeal she commanded among the masses as a ‘capable Health Minister and an able administrator.’

Senior CPI(M) leaders emerging from a meeting of 88 members of the State Committee here on Tuesday morning, said a majority had supported the view that no exemption be given to ‘any single member’ of the erstwhile cabinet, while implementing the consensus decision to ‘lend an entirely new face’ this time.

Shock and surprise

Shailaja will now be the whip of the party in the Assembly. She had won with a high margin from Mattannur in Kannur, and her omission from the cabinet was received with surprise and shock. But the CPI(M) shrugged it off by saying that 81 out of the 88 State Committee members had endorsed it.

They emphasised the fact the party was supreme, and its collective decisions would prevail. In this context, they also recalled that four ministers in the erstwhile Cabinet, including Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, were not even allotted a seat to contest in the Assembly elections this time round.

'Centralisation of power'

Critics of the victorious LDF have alleged that the omission of Shailaja is inexplicable, and it goes to strengthen the narrative that the Chief Minister might want to centralise decision-making within his office and does not brook the emergence of a strong leader from the ranks, ‘much in the lines of the NDA government at the Centre.’

They also point to the fact that even the party politburo had expressed the view that any new LDF government in Kerala must have Shailaja as a prominent member given her excellent track record as Health Minister. But they said they are aware that the final decision rests with the State Committee, which keeps its own counsel.

Published on May 18, 2021

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