KK Shailaja, former Kerala Health Minister, today denied any disappointment at being kept out of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's new cabinet, saying it was a "policy decision" of the party that she accepted.
After a historic win in the recent Kerala election, the CPM has decided to drop all previous ministers, including KK Shailaja or "Shailaja Teacher", who won global recognition for her work in Covid management.
The new cabinet will have mostly first-time ministers, the Chief Minister being the exception.
Shailaja will be party Whip.
"It is a policy decision of our party. So according to that decision, I also decided to quit," the 64-year-old told NDTV.
Acknowledging the outpouring on social media protesting against the decision, she said: "That's all emotional." She was a first-time minister too, she pointed out.
"Everyone… when they get a new responsibility they are freshers and newcomers. We have to give others a chance too. Here are so many workers in our party, if they get the opportunity, they will also work hard," said Shailaja.
Besides, she said, she was not alone; no minister is being repeated.
On the last five years, Shailaja said she was proud of "facing challenges and difficult situations" and coming through.
"I am satisfied that I worked sincerely and worked hard with my colleagues. I had so many experiences…I had to face challenges and difficult situations – Covid, Nipah…But our government overcame them," she said.
"It was all teamwork and I am satisfied with the teamwork. I have so many touching experiences in these five years…"
Those likely to be sworn in on Thursday include 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.
Shailaja's exclusion has drawn a flood of comments on social media.
"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," tweeted Mr Tharoor, a Congress MP from Kerala.
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
Shailaja became a prominent face in the fight against the pandemic and was dubbed a "rockstar" health minister for her handling of Covid in Kerala.
In September, the UK-based Prospect magazine named her "Top Thinker of the Year 2020".
In what was seen as a reflection of her popularity, Shailaja won by a record margin in her constituency.
"A big thanks to voters for the big win," she said.