Pinarayi Vijayan was sworn in as Kerala Chief Minister for a second time on Thursday, after guiding the CPM-led Left Democratic Front government to a historic second successive term in the April-May election.
Mr Vijayan was sworn-in by Governor Arif Mohammad Khan in a brief ceremony conducted in accordance with COVID-19 protocols; the ceremony itself was only allowed after the Kerala High Court gave its permission Wednesday.
“Took the oaths of office and secrecy as Chief Minister of Kerala. Together let us realise a people’s alternative and build a Nava Keralam!” Mr Vijayan tweeted.
Pinarayi Vijayan will head an all-new 20-member cabinet – including 12 from the CPM and four from the CPI – with no carry-over – apart from himself.
CPIM leader PA Mohammad Riyas, Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) National President since before 2017 and Mr Vijayan’s son-in-law, has been named in the new list. Mr Riyas contested parliamentary elections in 2011 and has also been the CPM state secretariat member for the past five years.
The new team has three women – Dr R Bindu, Chinchu Rani and Veena George – one more than last time and a record number for any Kerala government.
CPM’s Veena George will be the first woman journalist-politician to be a Kerala Minister. She is expected to get the Health portfolio held by KK Shailaja.
Dr Bindhu, the former Thrissur Mayor, is also CPM State Secretary K Vijayraghavan’s wife, and is expected to get Higher Education.
75 per cent of the new cabinet are first-time ministers and 10 are first-time MLAs.
The sweeping changes – described by Mr Vijayan as a party decision – include the dropping of KK Shailaja, who was widely praised for her handling of the Covid crisis.
The new Kerala cabinet needs to hit the ground running because the state – praised for its containment of the virus in the first wave – has been badly affected by the second; active cases are over 3.32 lakh (third-worst in the country) and vaccine doses and oxygen supply is a key problem.