KK Shailaja, the Kerala health minister in the first term of the Pinarayi Vijayan government was denied a cabinet post in this term. Shailaja was played a leading role in the state’s fight against Covid-19 and her omission from the second term created a flutter in Kerala.
She will be the CPI(M)’s whip in the Kerala legislative assembly instead. KK Shailaja will replace CPI’s K Rajan as the Chief Whip of the Kerala Legislative Assembly, a report in The News Minute said.
Vijayan’s coalition government will have a fresh look with 11 new CPI (M) members, including his son-in-law PA Mohammed Riyas, national president of DYFI, in a reflection of the party’s attempt to infuse fresh blood in the ministry.
However, Shailaja’s non-inclusion led to a debate and many eyebrows were raised over the matter. Having won global accolades for her deft handling of the first wave of Covid-19 in Kerala which saw the country’s first case in 2020, Shailaja’s surprise omission drew instant comparisons with the late KR Gowri Amma, the firebrand Marxist once tipped to head Kerala but never did.
With her new role, Shailaja’s task as a party whip is to ensure discipline in a legislature. Termed as party’s ‘enforcers’ the whip ensures that members of a party vote according to the party’s decisions, and not based on individual ideologies or other factors.
The word ‘Whip’ comes from the word “Whippers-in” which were employed by a hunt to look after the hounds and keep them together in the field. The role of Party Whips is supposed to be similar disciplinarians, controlling the flock of members in their party. They are the eyes and ears of the leaders of the party so far as the members are concerned.
However, in opposition parties, the role differs as the Whips supply their members with all important information and ensure participation of members in the House during important discussions and voting.
But, will KK Shailaja teacher’s role as party whip will be a nominal one compared to her earlier post as the Health Minister in the previous government. The role of whip becomes prominent usually in cases where the ruling party has a thin majority. In such cases, the Chief Whip has to ensure that MLAs toe the party line and vote in favour of the party in a Motion of No Confidence, to ensure that the government doesn’t collapse.
However, in the current government the ruling CPI(M)-led government enjoys comfortable majority.