Communist Party of India Marxist leader Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday took oath for a second consecutive term as chief minister of Kerala breaking the decades-old alternate shift of power between Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the state.
Vijayan’s CPM-led Left Democratic Front bucked the trends in the state registering a dominant win in the April-May election, the LDF won 99 of 140 seats.
Governor Arif Mohammed Khan administered the oath of office to 76-year-old Vijayan. It is the second stint of the Marxist veteran in the top office.
The oath ceremony took place with Covid protocols in place at the Central Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram. Opposition Congress-UDF leaders kept away from the function in view of the spike in coronavirus cases. The Kerala High Court had on Wednesday directed the state government to restrict the number of participants in the ceremony in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In 1964, Vijayan joined the Communist Party, eventually became Kannur district secretary of Kerala Students’ Federation (KSF), which became the Students Federation of India (SFI). He was arrested in 1975, during the Emergency. In 2002, he was elected to the politburo.
Except for the CM face, all ministers of the new cabinet will be fresh faces, a blend of youngsters and veterans, CPI(M) leader AN Shamseer has said.
Vijayan has also been subjected to criticism as his son-in-law Mohammad Riyas is getting a berth in the new cabinet. Apart from Riyas, the new cabinet includes MV Govindan, K Radhakrishnan, KN Balagopal, P Rajeev, VN Vasavan, Saji Cherian, V Sivankutty, Dr R Bindu, Veena George, V Abdul Rahman among others.
Former Kerala minister KK Shailaja’s omission from the new cabinet has set off a debate with many including celebrities backing her and demanding that she be reinstated in the ministry. Shailaja, known as Shailaja Teacher, has been dropped as the state health minister in the second Pinarayi Vijayan-led government in Kerala. She played a leading role in the state’s fight against Covid-19 and was especially lauded for her handling of the pandemic in the first wave.
Vijayan’s rising popularity in the last year of the pandemic came under scrutiny following the party’s decision to drop KK Shailaja — the former health minister — from the cabinet, as it was interpreted as a race of popularity between Vijayan and Shailaja. Commenting on this, Vijayan said it was the party’s decision to not include anyone for two consecutive terms.