Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. (HT file)
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. (HT file)

Kerala Cabinet: CM’s son-in-law gets berth; all old ministers dropped

The most notable among them is health minister KK Shailaja, who was the face of the fight against pandemic in the state. Party sources said while many favoured a second term for Shailaja, others argued that an exception could not be made for her if it was an entirely new team this time around
PUBLISHED ON MAY 18, 2021 03:11 PM IST

The ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Tuesday sprang a surprise by dropping all ministers of the outgoing Pinarayi Vijayan government. The most notable among them is health minister KK Shailaja, who was the face of the fight against pandemic in the state.

Only Vijayan has retained his spot and his son-in-law, PA Mohamad Riyas, is among his new Cabinet colleagues. Party secretary A Vijayaraghavan’s wife R Bindu also figured in the new ministry.

Party sources said while many favoured a second term for Shailaja, others argued that an exception could not be made for her if it was an entirely new team this time around. While political observers said Shailaja’s popularity came in her way, there are reports that many senior Left leaders, including Brinda Karat, have expressed strong reservations over her exclusion.

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“It is a sad development. The most popular face was removed in the name of [inducting] fresh blood... The effective handling of the pandemic situation was one of the reasons for the party’s return to power. If the whole team was changed, then it should have been applicable to the captain also,” said political analyst NM Pearson.

Shailaja’s popularity was quite evident in the just-concluded assembly elections as well -- she emerged victorious from Mattanur constituency in Kannur with a majority of over 60,000 votes, the highest margin in the state. The public health crisis brought the best out of the unassuming physics teacher in the last five years-- whether it was the Nipah outbreak of 2018 and Covid-19 two years later, she was at the forefront.

Meanwhile, two women have found a place in the new Cabinet: Veena George and R Bindu. Other ministers are MV Govindan, P Rajeev, KN Balagopal, V Sivankutty, VN Vasavan, Saji Cherian, K Radhakrishnan, Mohamad Riyas, and V Abdul Rahaman. Former Lok Sabha MP MB Rajesh was elected the assembly Speaker.

Of the 20 ministerial slots, the CPI(M) has 12, CPI four, Kerala Congress( Mani) and Janata Dal (Secular) get one berth each. Four other smaller parties with single MLAs each will get berths on rotational basis -- two will become ministers for 30 months and the other two will be elevated during the next 30. CPI has also announced its four ministers, all new faces, K Rajan, P Prasad, JR Anil, and Chinju Rani.

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