After the outrage over the exclusion of KK Shailaja from Pinarayi Vijayan's cabinet, the Health portfolio has been given to a woman minister again.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will retain key portfolios including Home in the succesive LDF government in the state while his son-in-law PA Mohamed Riyas and Veena George, both first time ministers, will handle PWD and Health, respectively. George, a former journalist and Aranmula MLA, will succeed the popular KK Shailaja, who played a leading role in the state’s fight against Covid-19, and whose omission in the new cabinet had created a flutter.
Vijayan will retain Home, Vigilance and IT portfolios among others while his confidant and first-time legislator K N Balagopal will helm the Finance Department, replacing the high-profile T M Thomas Isaac as the portfolios of the new ministers were announced here on Friday.
Besides health and family affairs, George is also entrusted with the women and child welfare department.
After taking oath for the second time as CM on Thursday, Vijayan handed over the portfolios of respective ministers to Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the government order in this connection was issued late last night.
The 21-member-strong CPI(M)-led ministry was sworn in at the central stadium here on Thursday evening in a low-key ceremony in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Barring Vijayan, all 11 CPI(M) ministers are new faces.
It was almost certain that Balagopal, a former Rajya Sabha MP and a CPI(M) state committee member, would be entrusted with the all important finance portfolio and the tough task of infusing fresh energy to Kerala’s cash-strapped exchequer.
He also has the responsibility of continuing the state’s development programmes under the aegis of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Board (KIIFB), a brainchild of Isaac, also a known economist.
Riyas, another fresh entrant to the state assembly, has been allotted the key Public Works (PWD) and Tourism, held by seniors G Sudhakaran and Kadakampally Surendran, respectively, in the previous cabinet.
While former Rajya Sabha member P Rajeeve will handle Law and Industries, V Sivankutty, who is basking in the glory of closing the BJP account in the state by wresting its lone Nemom seat, was rewarded with the General Education and Labour departments.
A recipient of the Sansad Ratna Award for the best Parliamentarian, Rajeeve is also a CPI(M) state committee member. Health and education were among the well-performing departments in the previous Vijayan government.
Kannur strongman M V Govindan, the lone central committee member of the Marxist party after Vijayan in the cabinet, was given the charge of local self government and excise. He is a third term legislator.
In a significant move, fifth-time MLA and former speaker, K Radhakrishnan, the Dalit face of the new cabinet, is shouldered with the responsibility of Devaswom, the administration and management of temple affairs. Known for his clean image and a down-to-earth personality, he will have the responsibility of managing the affairs of hundreds of temples under the state-run boards including the famed Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa Temple.
Besides Veena George, two other women legislators also found a place in the Vijayan cabinet, the highest in recent times.
R Bindhu, wife of CPI(M) acting state secretary A Vijayaraghavan, would hold the Higher Education and Social Justice portfolios while J Chinchurani, the first ever woman minister of CPI, got Animal Husbandry and Dairy Development.
The portfolios of other ministers are as follows: K Rajan (Revenue), G R Anil (Food and Civil Supplies), Roshi Augustin (Irrigation), Saji Cheriyan (Fisheries and Cultural Affairs), V N Vasavan (Co-operation and Registration), V Abdurahman (Sports), P Prasad (Agriculture), K Krishnankutty (Electricity), A K Saseendran (Forest), Antony Raju (Transport) and Ahammed Devarkovil (Port, Museums and Archaeology).
The CPI(M) has 12 members in the new Left Democratic Front cabinet and CPI four while Kerala Congress (M), Janata Dal (S) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have one nominee each.
As there are restrictions to accommodate more than 21 members in the cabinet, the LDF had decided to share the ministerial berths to four of its allies, having single MLA, on a term basis.