Aranmula MLA and former journalist, Veena George replaces KK Shailaja as the Health Minister of Kerala. Her husband, George Joseph is an ex-Secretary of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Veena is the bridge that links the communists and the orthodox church and it did not come as a surprise to many when she took oath in the name of God. Some called it the consolidation of the Syrian Christian votes in CPM’s favor because Veena won only because she had the full backing of her church.
With her swearing-in, the Christian minority made its presence felt in the Assembly. For the Communists, this was just another image-building exercise (Hindus still believe in both secularism and communism). It also shows that the rule of ‘no religion’ within the CPM applies to Hindus only.
Having come up through the student wing (SFI) of the Communist party during her college days, Veena was nominated to the seat in 2016 and won by a margin of around 6000 votes. This time around her victory margin is around 20000 but pales in comparison to the 60000 margin that the people of Mattannur gave the outgoing KK Shailaja. CPM had tried Veena in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections but she was comprehensively beaten by Anto Antony from the Congress.
She has 16 years experience as a journalist and as expected came up through the CPM-owned Kairali TV. She went on to work with other media groups until 2016. Veena is stepping in at a time when Kerala is reeling from a particularly harsh period due to the virus.
Replacing Shailaja with Veena seems like political suicide. To entrust the health ministry to someone who has tried her hand at teaching and then the civil services, to later join the media as a journalist and then politics, at the expense of someone who is fairly experienced during the times of pandemic is considered a very bad move by analysts.
There are allegations that Pinarayi Vijayan fearing Shailaja’s mass appeal stepped in to cut her short. The decision to drop her was taken at a Politburo meeting which included Vijayan, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, M.A. Baby and S.Ramachandran Pillai.
This has not gone down well with not just the media and health care workers but more importantly, common CPM cadre are miffed as well. Ironically, liberals and feminists are silent on this shocking sacking of the lady health minister who was the cynosure of all eyes, including international media, till recently and was even being touted as a potential Nobel prize winner and future CM.
Whether Veena will be able to step up to the challenge, only time will tell.
Though she was the state health minister, both Shailaja and her husband ironically preferred private hospitals for their treatment. That became apparent when she claimed medical reimbursements of around 3,80,000/- rupees after her first year in office. Bills included 50000/- for her husband’s treatment at a private hospital and spanking new spectacles worth 28000/- for herself.
That she is entitled to it is another matter but the ambiguity is that a Communist minister had chosen private hospitals over the public ones that she was in charge of! It is also indicative of the double standards that exist in Kerala’s polity, despite the so-called egalitarian influence of Communists.
However, by and large, there have been no serious scams reported from the Health Department in the past five years, and facilities have gone up substantially. That Shailaja remained proactively busy handling earlier virus attacks including the Nipah added to her charisma and her experience.
The Communist dynasties that have risen in the last decade are best exemplified by Pinarayi’s son-in-law Mohammad Riyaz being appointed a cabinet minister this time around. Vijayan’s duplicity has also come a long way, from having asked ‘where Gods sit’, to admitting that all Gods, including Sri Ayyappa, are with the Communists. The latter is a comment he made on election day.
The only positive takeaway is that like Muslim and Christian CPM cadre, Hindu ones are now allowed to visit temples and pray to his or her God. The CPM has embraced socialism, and the rest of their communist theories and its allied atheism appear to have been discarded. Socialist development is exactly what nationalist parties like the BJP will have to work on if they are to succeed in Kerala.
For all the hype surrounding Vijayan and his victory, the only positive to have happened to the state that is worth mentioning is the GAIL project, i.e. laying underground LPG pipelines to all districts and other states from refineries. Ironically GAIL is a central government project undertaken and being completed satisfactorily by capitalist Adani! Astonishingly, no other major work of any kind has come up in Kerala over the past five years and still, the people of the state have invested in the same Communists.
Age favors Veena and even if she fails to deliver, she could still work on the Public Relations part, something the Communists rely on extensively just to stay in power.
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