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All about Veena George, Shailaja Teacher's successor and Kerala's new Health Minister

In 2015, a year before her foray into electoral politics, George became the first women Executive Editor to head a media organisation in Kerala when she assumed the position at TV New.

May 20, 2021 / 03:54 PM IST
Veena George will take oath as Kerala's new Health Minister on May 20.

Veena George will take oath as Kerala's new Health Minister on May 20.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Veena George is all set to replace KK Shailaja as Kerala’s new Health Minister in Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan-led new Cabinet.

George, 44, represents Aranmula assembly seat in the Pathanamthitta region and is one of the 11 women elected to the new Kerala Legislative Assembly.

A student activist to a Cabinet minister

Her first brush with politics was as an activist of Student Federation of India (SFI), the student wing of CPI (M). She contested elections for the first time when CPI (M) fielded her from Aranmula in 2016 assembly polls. She won. Five years later in the 2021 assembly polls, she won the seat again. George  defeated Congress veteran K Sivadasan Nair in both the elections. In 2019 general election, she contested from Pathanamthitta Lok Sabha Seat as a Left front candidate but lost to Anto Antony of the Congress.

First woman journalist to lead a Malayalam TV channel

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Born in Thiruvananthapuram on August 3, 1976, George was second topper in MSc (Physics) from Kerala University. Her father PE Kuriakose was an advocate. She is married to George Joseph, a higher secondary school teacher who served as secretary of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. They have two children.

“All the achievements by my daughter in her political career were unexpected and surprising,” Rosamma Kuriakose, George’s mother told media in Pathanamthitta. “I am sure that she can do well in the post of the health minister,” said Kuriakose, 67.

George worked as a TV journalist for 16 years before her foray into electoral politics in 2016. She also pursed teaching profession before starting her journalism career at Kairali TV. She went on to work with Kairali TV Manorama News, Indiavision, Reporter TV and TV New. In 2015, George became the first women Executive Editor to head a media organisation in Kerala when she assumed the position at TV New.

‘Focused’, ‘Hardworking’ and 'able successor' to Shailaja Teacher

People who know George, said she was a good choice to replace Shailaja Teacher as Kerala Health Minister.

John Brittas, Managing Director of Kairali TV, where George worked as news anchor, described her as an able public worker and political activist who would carry on her predecessor’s good work.

“She is able successor to Shailaja Teacher. I am sure she would carry on with the good work done by the outgoing Health Minister. She would draw inspiration from her. I have no doubt about her integrity and ability,” said Brittas, who is also a Rajya Sabha member.

READ: Dropping KK Shailaja from Kerala's new Cabinet state committee's decision: CPI(M) central leadership

Shailaja Teacher, as KK Shailaja is known, earned international acclaim for her handling of the Nipah outbreak in 2018 and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as Kerala's Health Minister in the outgoing cabinet. Yet, she was dropped from Vijayan's new Cabinet and instead chosen as the ruling party’s whip in the Legislative Assembly. The decision to not retain her in the new state Cabinet has triggered widespread criticism.

George faces a daunting task as she assumes charge amidst COVID-19 pandemic in Kerala, one of the worst-affected states of the country.

Also, read : KK Shailaja: Exit stage left

Speaking to media on May 19, George said she accepts the challenge. “My party had given responsibilities for me in 2016 and I accepted it wholeheartedly. I am also accepting the new responsibility given by my party and I will work hard to carry it out,” she said.

Before starting her journalism gig, George had tried her hand in civil services, too. “I found her grounded, focused and hard working. We were sure that she would crack the civil services examination,” said Cithara Paul, Kerala-based journalist with The Week, who went to civil services coaching with George in Thiruvananthapuram in 2000.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and new ministers will take oath at Central Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram on May 20 . The attendance has been limited to 500 people due to COVID-19-induced restrictions.

The CPI (M)-led LDF had swept the April 6 polls, winning 99 of the 140 seats.

Also, read: Pinarayi Vijayan’s swearing-in spectacle is illogical and insensitive

The CPI(M) will have 12 ministers (including the CM), CPI four ministers and one each from Kerala Congress (M), Indian National League (INL), Democratic Kerala Congress (DKC), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Janata Dal (S) in the new Cabinet.
Gulam Jeelani is a journalist with over 11 years of reporting experience. Based in New Delhi, he covers politics and governance for Moneycontrol.

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