Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday lashed out at state Congress president Mullapally Ramachandran for his comments against on Health Minister KK Shailaja. Vijayan said the outrage against Shailaja is stemming from a particular mindset and it is anti-women.
“Is this how you see women? It's unfortunate that the Congress president has fallen to this level to believe that words like this would bring applause from supporters or grab headlines," the chief minister said.
Stating that Shailaja was only trying earn the title ‘Covid Queen’, Ramachandran has said the health minister was taking credit for handling the coronavirus crisis, but has done nothing for the diaspora.
"She first by just playing a 'guest role' when Nipah struck Kozhikode, earned the title 'Nipah princess' and now she is trying to earn the title of 'Covid Queen', when our diaspora is waiting endlessly to return to their home town. This Left Front government has cheated the diaspora, when they badly needed the support of the state government," he said during a sit-in at Thiruvananthapuram.
On Saturday, members of the women's wing of the CPI-M took out a march to the residence of Ramachandran in Kozhikode district demanding an apology for his remark.
Vijayan said the opposition is trying to see if it can derail the virus prevention measures of the government by singling out and launching an attack on the health minister.
"I have only one thing to say. Don't play politics with the lives of the people. The lives of the people are important," CM said.
Also joining the issue was the Sajesh, husband of Lini, a nurse who was in the forefront of helping Nipah victims at Kozhikode in 2018, but succumbed to the disease.
Sajesh said Shailaja is like a family member to them and was always with the grieving family and even now calls them on Lini's death anniversary. He said when Nipah struck Kozhikode, Ramachandran was a Lok Sabha member from Vadakara but he never even called or did anything.
Soon after, Congress workers marched to Sajesh’s office and pointed out that Ramachandran was very much active in the fight against Nipah and he even spoke to Sajesh.
On Saturday, Ramachandran said he stands by what he said and the entire credit for fighting the Nipah virus should be given to the hard-working health professionals in Kozhikode.
Vijayan said the efforts of the Congress to witch-hunt the family members of Sister Lini would be thwarted.
“Congress workers took out a protest march against the hospital where the Sister Lini's husband, Sajesh, works. Sister Lini is Kerala's own. The state had seen Sister Lini's life sacrifice with tears. She is a testimony of our fight against Nipah. Everyone in Kerala considers her family as their own," Vijayan said, adding Ramachandran is bringing shame to Kerala by his remarks.
He said that had the government paid heed to the advice of Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala on mitigation strategy, the situation would have turned worse.
"In the Assembly, when the issue was discussed, what was opposition leader's stand? He said we should shift our strategy from 100 per cent containment to mitigation. Had we followed his advice, what would have happened?"
Regarding Friday’s protest by Congress leaders outside the state secretariat, Vijayan said there was no social distancing.
Vijayan said, "Take for example, Friday’s protest of Opposition leader. The rush of people to get into one camera frame. Should that be done during these times? You all should be an example for others. What is the message you are giving? Should the message be that people should not follow social distancing during such times."
Chennithala, Ramachandran and several other Congress functionaries staged a sit-in outside the secretariat to protest against the state government's insistence on a COVID-negative report from expatriates before being allowed to return to Kerala.