Out of the blue: K.K. Shailaja axed from Kerala cabinet
Sir — The exclusion of K.K. Shailaja, popularly known as ‘Shailaja teacher’, from the incoming Left Democratic Front government in Kerala has come as a complete surprise (“Shailaja left out, Kerala seethes”, May 19). It has given reason to suspect that Pinarayi Vijayan, who holds sway over the Kerala state unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), did not relish the limelight Shailaja received for her handling of the Covid-19 crisis as the health minister of Kerala.
Shailaja became the face of the model fight against the pandemic and won accolades internationally. She was profiled and interviewed by international media. Her image has been one of a kind — that of a caring woman. Shailaja’s performance as health minister boosted the LDF government’s image as a people-friendly and efficient dispensation.
There is no doubt that Vijayan has grown in stature by leading the state from the front in its fight against Covid-19. The viewership for his daily press briefing, guiding the people through this difficult time, was high. One finds it hard to reconcile oneself with the idea that a leader such as Vijayan, who rose through the ranks to become chief minister and is now beginning his second consecutive term in office, putting his personal likes and dislikes above providing strong leadership in the management of the pandemic.
It is significant that the central leadership of the CPI(M), including the general secretary, Sitaram Yechury, and the politburo member, Brinda Karat, conveyed its dissatisfaction with her exclusion from the cabinet, a move that is amenable to being read as the sidelining of a popular woman leader. The new crop of ministers appear to be endowed with public spirit and leadership qualities. The induction of new faces as ministers would have come in for greater appreciation if Vijayan had himself led by example and made way for a young leader to head the government. The centralization of power in the chief minister’s office has now become a legitimate fear. A highly centralized system of governance does not sit comfortably with India’s understanding of democracy.
G. David Milton,
Maruthancode, Tamil Nadu
Sir — The Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala is beginning its second term with a set of ministers, the majority of whom are new faces. But what really has stunned the supporters of the Left and even those from the Opposition, including right-wing parties, is the omission of K.K. Shailaja, the star of the previous government, from the ministerial list.
The whole nation knows how Kerala encountered the first wave of the pandemic and brought the situation almost entirely under control before the second wave surged. The credit for this goes to Shailaja who, with her grit and the support of the health department, fought bravely against the pandemic. She was rightly lauded for her exemplary work as health minister during the first wave.
People across party lines supported Shailaja in her efforts to control the pandemic. Her work received global attention, with other nations trying to emulate the ‘Kerala model’. The exclusion of Shailaja’s name from the new cabinet has no wonder attracted criticism from many within the party itself. But those at the helm of the CPI(M) seem to believe that the party is above the individuals that drive it. Not everyone agrees, and for good reason. Shailaja won the Mattannur constituency of her home district, Kannur, with a record margin.
A new face dealing with the pandemic — apprehensions about this already abound — might find it difficult to handle the present crisis, and if things do not go the right way, the party’s decision is sure to be questioned and fingers may point at the chief minister himself. The coming days will surely resolve this question.
Sir — The best woman CPI(M) leader in Kerala, K.K. Shailaja, is out of the ministry. Senior leaders of the party, including Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat, have expressed their displeasure with the matter.
The decision to avoid Shailaja is allegedly based on the policy of taking on only new faces as ministers. So why must an old face — that of Pinarayi Vijayan — continue in the new cabinet? Does not the newly created policy apply to him? It is truly amusing to find a chief minister and his son-in-law together in the cabinet of a communist government.
Mao Zedong had once said, “Communism is not love. Communism is a hammer which we use to crush the enemy.” When all are from the same family, this can be done easily.
Strike a balance
Sir — The findings of the recent study by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization that reveals an alarming correlation between overworking and potentially fatal health hazards are not surprising. With the shift to the work-from-home system, work hours of employees have been prolonged beyond measure, leaving many struggling to maintain a work-life balance. The study warns that this could lead to stroke or death by heart disease. Companies need to institute policies at once to prevent such cases. A modicum of relaxation is essential to good health as well as better professional performance.