The Communist Party of India (Marxist) committee in Kerala on Tuesday did not include high-profile politicians, including former state Health Minister KK Shailaja, in the new Cabinet, reported The Hindu. The party nominated Shailaja, who has been lauded for her handling of the Covid-19 and Nipah outbreaks in Kerala, as the CPI(M)’s chief whip in the next Assembly.

In Kerala, the Left Democratic Front retained power in the Assembly elections, which were held on April 6. The results were declared on May 2.

Shailaja won from the Mattanur constituency in Kannur district with a total of 96,129 votes and a record margin of 60,963 votes.

All the ministers in the new Kerala Cabinet will include fresh faces except for Pinarayi Vijayan, who will be sworn-in as chief minister again on May 20, reported Onmanorama.

Amid widespread speculation about whether Shailaja had been dropped, the CPI(M) in an official statement confirmed the decision. The former health minister told a news channel that the party’s decision was paramount and that the move was a collective recommendation in line with the CPI(M)’s policies on rotating government portfolios.

“It’s a policy decision of our party and the Left Democratic Front that all the ministers should be newcomers,” Shailaja said, speaking to NDTV. “According to that decision, I also decided to quit.”

On being asked about the outpouring of calls on social media to induct her into the state Cabinet, Shailaja said it was an “emotional thing” on part of her supporters. She also denied allegations that the Pinarayi Vijayan government was acting in an “autocratic” manner and that the decision was a misogynist one.

“We have to give chances to other people also... There are so many workers in our party and if they get opportunity, they will also work hard.”

Speaking on her stint as the Kerala health minister, Shailaja said she was satisfied with the work she had done and credited teamwork for being able to deal with exigencies like the coronavirus pandemic, the Nipah virus outbreak in 2018 and the floods that hit the state in 2019.

Among other politicians dropped from the new Cabinet were Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran and Local Bodies Minister AC Modieen.

The new Cabinet will include two women legislators – Thrissur Mayor R Bindu and Veena George.

The Speaker of the new Assembly will be MB Rajesh. Rajesh told the media that the CPI(M) had made its choices for the new Cabinet as it made way for a new set of politicians to get legislative and administrative experience, according to The Hindu.

The new faces that will be inducted into the Vijayan-led Cabinet were – Democratic Youth Federation of India National President Mohammed Riyaz, M. V. Govindan, KN Balagopal, K. Radhakrishnan, P Rajeev, and VN Vasavan, among others, reported Onmanorama.

Vijayan was expected to meet Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan after a meeting with the LDF parliamentary party at 5 pm.

The swearing-in ceremony will be held with 500 attendants – half the capacity of the central stadium Thiruvananthapuram, where the event will occur. The decision to hold a proper event also drew flak with many highlighting the surge in Covid-19 cases and the state being under a lockdown, according to The News Minute.

On May 15, Vijayan announced the extension of the state lockdown by another week till May 23. He added that strict restrictions will be implemented in the four districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Malappuram where a triple lockdown was implemented from Sunday midnight. All four districts had Covid-19 test positivity rates above 25%.

Follow today’s updates on the Covid-19 crisis here