Soon after the Left Democratic Font registered it’s resounding and historic win in the legislative assembly elections of Kerala, innumerous speculations emerged about the cabinet formation and the inclusion of fresh faces. But the news of K.K. Shailaja dropped off the second cabinet came as a huge shock to the Keralities. Her much adored covid management and her landslide victory with a historic margin in the assembly polls didn’t earn her space in the cabinet. It raised many eyebrows and sparked massive protests , many renowned activists, actors and several others took to social media strongly marking their dissent. How did K.K. Shailaja grow from an ordinary minister to the widely acclaimed “teacher-amma” ? Why did only her exclusion stimulate massive protests?
Shailaja first came into the limelight in 2018 during the Nipah outbreak. She received immense praise from different corners for the effective handling of the epidemic. Her popularity grew even more stronger during the covid 19 pandemic. She addressed daily briefings, spreaded awareness about the disease, and kickstarted campigns to help contain the spread of the virus. After the successful slackening of the first curve, teacher-amma’s popularity knew no bounds. She was featured in the Vogue, Guardian and BBC , was recognised by the UN and was also listed as one of the twenty most influential women by the Financial Times last year. All these laurels cemented her image and led to a fantabulous win with a historic margin of over 60,000 votes smashing all records. Thus many assumed she will continue to lead the health ministery in the next cabinet too.
The experience gathered from dealing with the Nipah outbreak and two successive waves of covid 19 is of huge importance in the present situation. The delay for a new entrant to understand the system will cost heavily in this crucial time. Shailaja’s popularity did earn immense trust and confidence of the public, it’s a giant challenge infront of the new government to win it back.
However this move has been interpreted as a part of the growing personality cult in the party and the unquestionable leadership of the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The unexpected glory of Shailaja , recognitions, possibilities of her being the next chief ministerial candidate have disturbed many and paved her way out. Many drew parallels between her and the late leader KR Gowri amma who was denied the Chief ministership in the past in spite of her immense popularity due to patriarchal nature of politics.
At the same time many argue that Shailaja teacher was “disproportionately hyped” as Kerala’s health mechanism suffered a huge setback during the second wave. The much celebrated low death rate is also surging high recently, the dearth of oxygen and other health facilities are being frequently reported in many parts of the country. The health department will be thoroughly scrutinised from now on by the public, it is indeed a challenge to prevent any mistakes.
Although the decision to include young and new faces is indeed revolutionary, it’s heart breaking to see a woman excellent in her field being asked to step back, strengthening the patriarchal framework in our society. Let more Shailajas comeup to shun down this male dominance prevalent in every field.