Kollam: K K Shailaja will not be in the second Pinarayi Vijayan-led cabinet if the CPM agrees to the demand of a section of its leaders.
It is learned that heated discussions are on in the CPM after a few leaders from Kannur made a concerted move to target Shailaja. They demanded the State secretariat to exclude all ministers from the outgoing ministry, except Chief Minister, in the new cabinet.
Opposing Shailaja, a central committee member argued that the strict implementation of the two-term norm helped the party register a thumping win in the Assembly polls, and hence only fresh faces should be included in the cabinet. It is learned that Vijayan nipped the demand at the bud itself.
A C Moideen was also the target of the group that demanded a generational change in the cabinet. Moideen, who has been elected to the Assembly for the fourth time, was made a minister for the first time in the outgoing cabinet.
Those who raised the demand felt the generational change in candidates should be reflected in the cabinet also. The CPM will decide on whether to exclude all existing ministers or retain Shailaja alone based on the general norms. Shailaja is also a central committee member of the party.
Besides Shailaja, it is now almost certain that M V Govindan, K Radhakrishnan, P Rajeev and K N Balagopal will be included in the cabinet. The names of V Sivankutty, V N Vasavan, P P Chitharanjan, Saji Cherian, P Nandakumar, C H Kunhambu, Veena George, M B Rajesh, Kanathil Jameela, R Bindu, A N Shamseer and K T Jaleel are also being considered. One of them is likely to become the Assembly Speaker.
Though there is almost an understanding in the party to include new faces in the cabinet, the central committee member spoke in the State secretariat targeting Shailaja. The same section of leaders had earlier demanded to field her against V S Sivakumar of the Congress in the Thiruvananthapuram Assembly constituency.
Shailaja, apparently, foresaw the move, and stood adamant on contesting from Mattannur during seat-sharing talks in the Kannur district secretariat. She had also been aware that a few leaders who wanted to contest from Mattannur were behind the move.
The popular minister won Mattannur by adding more than 17,000 votes to the majority than E P Jayarajan had garnered in 2016. Jayarajan was not fielded citing the two-term norm, which prohibited those who had won two consecutive terms from contesting the polls. She won by a majority of more than 6o,000 votes this time.
Shailaja, who held the health and social welfare portfolios, was one of the most popular ministers in the first Vijayan cabinet, who won even international accolades for her handling of the 2018 Nipah outbreak, and the COVID-19 situation. The second Pinarayi cabinet is slated to take the oath of office and secrecy on May 20.