Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has brand new cabinet but with a notable omission of K K Shylaja, who as health minister in his first cabinet had taken the famous Kerala model of fighting the virus to the world. Also, there is a notable inclusion -- of his son-in-law of one year standing as a minister.
The name of Mohammed Riyas, who married Vijayan’s daughter Veena around this time a year ago, was doing the rounds as a probable ministerial candidate, but the exclusion of Shyalaja has evoked all-round shock, especially when her continuity would have helped the state tackle its most difficult phase of Covid fight.
Despite Pinarayi Vijayan’s preference for all new faces in his cabinet, Shylaja’s retention in the new team was considered as a foregone conclusion in view of her global profile as one of the most successful health ministers in dealing with Covid, as well as the fact that she was elected this time with the largest victory margin.
As if in the form of a consolation prize, Shylaja has been made the chief whip of the ruling CPI-M, which for all practical purposes means very little in terms of responsibility.
The outgoing health minister refused to comment on her omission, except to say that it was the party decision and she abided by it, but her supporters in the Kannur party as well as public at large expressed disappointment.
It is learnt that only seven members of the party secretariat backed her claim, while the majority went with the chief minister’s plan to have an all-new cabinet in the government’s historic return to power.
The inclusion of son-in-law Mohammed Riyas is officially marked off against his position as the all-India president of the party’s youth wing, the Democratic Youth Federation of India.
Pinarayi Vijayan had already axed all the heavyweights of his previous ministry at the stage of candidate selection. This was done as part of a party policy to affect a generational shift, under which the old faces had to yield space to young.
Industries minister E P Jayarajan, considered as number two in the first Vijayan cabinet, finance minister Thomas Isaac, public works minister G Sudhakaran, all power centres in the party, along with law minister A K Balan as well as Speaker Sreeramakrishnan, whose name has figured in the gold and dollar smuggling scam, were all denied nomination.
Although sections of the party expected the decision to impact poll results, the massive victory and mandate for continuity came as a vindication of Vijayan’s strategy.
But Shylaja’s omission has displeased a section of the central leadership, including Prakash Karat and his wife Brinda, but given Pinarayi Vijayan’s stranglehold on the party, their displeasure does not mean much.
While the generational shift has been widely applauded, political observers are worried how an inexperienced team would lead to all powers being concentrated in the hands of the chief minister, who already has a reputation of having dictatorial tendencies.