- KK Shailaja came to be seen as a "rockstar" health minister
- The former minister, 64, is also known as "Shailaja Teacher"
- She won by over 60,000 votes from the constituency in Kannur district
KK Shailaja, who was praised for her handling of the coronavirus outbreak as Kerala's Health Minister, will not be a part of the Left-led government's new cabinet. The LDF, which defied tradition and won a second straight term in recent elections, will have a new-look cabinet in which Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will be the only repeat.
"No one from the earlier LDF ministry is part of the new ministry except for the Chief Minister. This is our party decision. Only our party has the courage to do so. Many top performers were also not allowed to contest elections. We want new faces," AN Shamsheer, a CPM MLA, told NDTV.
Reports suggest those picked for the new cabinet are MV Govindan, K Radhakrishnan, KN Balagopal, P Rajeev, VN Vasavan, Saji Cherian, V Sivankutty, Mohd Riyas, Dr R Bindu, Veena George and V Abdul Rahman.
KK Shailaja's exclusion has drawn sharp reactions on social media, even from rivals like Congress leader Shashi Tharoor.
"Sorry to see Shailaja Teacher leave the Kerala cabinet. Aside from her reputed competence and efficiency, I always found her helpful, responsive and accessible as Health Minister, especially during the #Covid crisis. She will be missed," Mr Tharoor, a Congress MP from Kerala, wrote on Twitter.
Sorry to see @shailajateacher leave the Kerala cabinet. Aside from her reputed competence & efficiency, I always found her helpful, responsive & accessible as Health Minister, esp during the #Covid crisis. She will be missed.— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) May 18, 2021
Many posts attacked the Left for dropping a minister whose performance likely contributed to its election victory.
KK Shailaja aka "Shailaja Teacher" came to be seen as a "rockstar" health minister for her handling of the Covid outbreak in Kerala, a state that scored early successes in checking the spread of the virus in the first wave. She had also been appreciated for her role in checking the Nipah virus.
In September, the UK-based Prospect magazine selected KK Shailaja as the "Top Thinker of the Year 2020".
In the Kerala election, she had won from her constituency Mattannur by the highest margin ever in any Kerala election.
Speaking to NDTV on the day of her win, the 64-year-old CPM leader had told NDTV: "Whether I will be the health minister again is something that will be decided when a decision by the cabinet is taken. So I cannot be sure at the moment."
She added: "What I want to highlight is that we faced many challenges during our tenure. We had a devastating hurricane, floods, the Nipah virus, and COVID-19 pandemic but we rose to the occasion each time. The people saw this and were happy with the model of governance in Kerala and hence we have been voted to power again for the work we have done."
The CPM said there was no question of singling out Shailaja.
"There are many other first-time ministers, senior party leaders who performed very well. None have been included in the new government. It's a uniform principle being applied to all. Many new faces will have the opportunity to perform as well as their predecessors. Remember, the last Pinarayi Vijayan government had all new ministers, except Thomas Isaac and G Sudhakaran," CPM politburo member MA Baby told NDTV.