CPI-M’s red flag for Magsaysay Award to former health minister K.K. Shailaja

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CPI-M’s red flag for Magsaysay Award to former health minister K.K. Shailaja

Thiruvananthapuram:  The Kerala Unit of CPI-M is in controversy after reports emanated that it denied permission to former Kerala health minister, K.K. Shailaja to accept the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for 2022.

According to information available, Shailaja was shortlisted by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation for the 64th Magsaysay award for her service towards public health as the state had won global recognition for its effective handling of Nipah outbreak and Covid pandemic during her tenure. She was lauded across the globe for leading from the front to contain contagious diseases.

The foundation had verified with Shailaja during the end of July 2022 and intimated by e-mail that she was shortlisted and wanted her confirmation in accepting the award. Being the Central Committee member of the CPI-M, Shailaja, informed the party leadership and after detailed deliberations, the CPI-M decided against her accepting the award.

According to a senior leader of the CPI-M, the party is of the opinion that Shailaja was just doing the duty entrusted to her by the party and that there was no other specific effort in it. The party also believes that containing Nipah and Covid-19 was a joint effort and not a single person’s effort and hence informed her not to accept the award.

According to party sources, the CPI-M leadership has rejected the award mainly due to the fact that it was after Ramon Magsaysay who had used an iron hand to crush Communist guerillas in Philippines. The party is of the opinion that it may backfire in the long run to the party.

However several party sympathisers in private admit that it was a wasted opportunity for the party just like it did the Himalayan Blunder of rejecting the offer of Prime Minister post to Jyoti Basu earlier.

While speaking to IANS, Sajeev Thomas, a CPI-M sympathiser and a businessman from Kottayam said, “It is Pinarayi Vijayan who scuttled the award for Shailaja teacher. He does not want anyone in the limelight other than himself. The party in future will repent this.”

It is to be noted that Ramon Magsaysay award is considered an Asian Nobel award and if she had accepted it, she would have been the first Keralite woman to have won the prestigious award.

India’s milkman, Dr. Vargheese Kurien, Agriculture Scientist, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, Journalist, Editor B.G. Verghese and illustrious election commissioner of India, T.N. Seshan were the other Keralites who had won the prestigious award in earlier years.

While CPI-M has its own arguments to deny permission, this rejection is seen as another move by Pinarayi Vijayan to clip the wings of Shailaja who had a larger-than-life image in the state and highly popular.

She was denied a second term in the present state government even though she won with the record margin of 60,963 votes from Mattanur assembly constituency in Kannur district in 2021 assembly polls. Her vote margin was the highest in the 2021 assembly elections in Kerala.


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