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Magsaysay award controversy in CPI-M

A controversy has erupted in the CPI-M after a national English daily on Sunday reported that the party has scuttled the chance of former Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja, winning the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for 2022.

SNS | Thiruvananthapuram |

A controversy has erupted in the CPI-M after a national English daily on Sunday reported that the party has scuttled the chance of former Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja, winning the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for 2022.

The New Indian Express on Sunday in a report stated that the CPI-M has scuttled the chance of KK Shailaja winning the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for 2022 and described it as second ‘historical blunder’ after turning down the Prime Ministership for veteran leader Jyoti Basu two decades ago.

The newspaper in its report said that Shailaja was chosen for the 64th Magsaysay Award for her commitment and service during the outbreak of Nipah and Covid-19 while serving as the Health Minister in Kerala.

“It has been learnt that the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation had zeroed in on Shailaja for the 64th Magsaysay award for her commitment and service towards ensuring an accessible public health system and effectively leading from the front to manage the Nipah and Covid-19 outbreaks in the state. Kerala had won global recognition for its effective handling of the Nipah outbreak and the Covid pandemic during her tenure,” says the report.

The report further says that the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation first verified with Shailaja during an online interaction and later intimated her of the award, towards the end of July. “In its e-mail to the former minister, notifying her of being selected for the international honour, the foundation asked her to convey her willingness to accept the award, in writing,” the report says. Following this, Shailaja, being a central committee member of the CPI-M, consulted the party leadership about the Award and the leadership looked at different aspects of the Award, and decided against her accepting the same. As the party declined permission to her to receive the Award, Shailaja wrote to the Foundation expressing her inability to accept the award.

“The party felt that as health minister, Shailaja was merely doing her duty entrusted to her by the party. In addition, the state’s efforts in fighting the Nipah outbreak and the Covid pandemic were part of a collective movement and therefore she need not accept the award in her individual capacity,” the report adds.

“It’s also learnt that the party decided against her receiving the award as it was in the name of Magsaysay who was known for putting down Communist guerillas. The CPM felt that accepting such an award would backfire in the long run,” reads the report. 

Responding to the controversy, Shailaja said that the Award committee had informed her that she was nominated for the Award and it was declined after discussing with the CPI-M Central Committee.

 “When examined, it has been found that such awards were never received by politicians. The award was declined after discussing with the CPI-M Central Committee. The decision was soon passed to the Award committee by conveying gratitude for considering her,” she said.

CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury on Sunday refuted the media reports that the party leadership pressurized Shailaja to decline the Ramon Magsaysay Award.

Stating that CPI-M and KK Shailaja are on the same page on the matter, Yechury said that Shailaja herself cited many reasons to decline the Award and the party did not compel her to do so. “She is a part of the high-level committee of the central leadership which takes decisions,” he said in New Delhi