It is hard to make sense of the LDF’s decision to drop KK Shailaja as Kerala’s health minister
Many, within the ‘party Left’ as well, have been unable to digest the fact that Kerala’s second LDF government under Pinarayi Vijayan will not feature KK Shailaja. Shailaja rose to international prominence—with giants of international media labelling her a ‘rockstar health minister’—for her world-class handling of the Nipah outbreak and her superlative early efforts to control the Covid-19 pandemic in the state. But, international acclaim is not all, her work on the ground gathered her a mass acceptance in the state that saw her win her Assembly constituency by a margin of over 60,000 votes, the largest ever in the state’s history. And yet, she had been benched—the LDF has pleaded that the new Cabinet will be completely “new”, to give other leaders a chance to prove their mettle. Admirable as it sounds, does that have to be at the cost of experience? Without doubt, Kerala would have benefited from all the knowhow she acquired in her tenure in the preceding tenure of the LDF government since the pandemic is far from over.
While many in the commentariat have rightly highlighted the LDF’s history of sidelining women with promise, the coalition will point at the three women inducted this time, all of whom have shown promise in their previous administrative/political stints. However, in the immediate term, the concern is about privileging ‘rotation/turn’ over ‘merit’. For governance, that is a gamble, and if it doesn’t pay off in the Kerala context, it would be probably a singular misstep.