In a scathing attack against the Congress in the state, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan questioned if the motive of the protests or insults by office bearers of the party in the state was "witch-hunting". His remarks come after the state Congress chief Mullappally Ramachandran mocked Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja, calling her "COVID Rani". The senior leader had earlier called her "Nipah Rajkumari" during the deadly outbreak in 2018.
"I'm not speaking against the remarks made by Congress out of political difference. What are some of the insults made by leaders in responsible positions against Kerala's health minister who is at the forefront of efforts to tackle COVID-19. What is the provocation? Isn't this an attempt to witch-hunt her? People are not going to accept this," the Chief Minister said.
The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president had alleged Ms Shailaja was trying to "win titles" and visited Kozhikode during the Nipah outbreak in 2018 as a "guest artist".
"The outrage against KK Shailaja is stemming from a particular mindset. That is anti-women. Is this how you see women? It's unfortunate that the KPCC president has fallen to the level to think that words like this would bring applause from supporters or grab headlines," Mr Vijayan told the media on Saturday.
Chief Minister also hit out at the Congress for taking out a protest to a hospital where the husband of Sister Lini - who had died during the Nipah outbreak as she got infected while treating patients at a local hospital - works.
"Sister Lini is the first face that comes to mind when one thinks of the experience of defeating Nipah outbreak... she is Kerala's very own. Her family is seen as 'our family' by people in Kerala. Health minister was also at the forefront during Nipah outbreak and this is something that everyone acknowledges," Mr Vijayan said.
"While the Minister is mocked as 'Nipah rajkumari' or 'Covid rani', it's obvious that the first reactions will come from from sister Lini's family. By taking a protest against that family - what ppposition duty are they trying to fulfill?" Pinarayi Vijayan asked
"If the effort is to witch-hunt the family - that will not be allowed. Sister Lini is Kerala's own. Kerala is with Lini's family, husband and children. Kerala will give them all protection required," Chief Minister added.
The CPI(M) which heads the ruling coalition in Kerala has sought a public apology from Mullappally Ramachandran.
Mr Ramachandran has however said he has said nothing wrong and that he is not going to apologise.
"What I have said is right. I stand by my words and have not insulted anyone. I am not going to apologise," Mr Ramachandran said a day after his comments were deemed sexist and kicked up a storm, news agency PTI reported.
Pinarayi Vijayan also alleged the opposition is trying to derail work against coronavirus by attacking the health minister.
"The system is trying everything possible to avoid a community spread. They (opposition) are trying to see if the activities can be derailed by singling out and attacking the minister. I have only one thing to say, don't play politics with the lives of the people. The lives of the people are important," Pinarayi Vijayan said.
Kerala on Saturday registered 127 COVID 19 cases - the highest cases registered in the state in a single day. Kerala has 3039 confirmed cases and 21 deaths so far.
With inputs from PTI