Hyderabad: The Telangana government on Sunday sacked health minister T. Rajaiah, who is also state deputy chief minister, as swine flu claimed 22 lives in the newly formed state.

State government officials told the Press Trust of India that even though 35 new cases of swine flu were reported on Sunday, there were no deaths due to the infection in the last 48 hours.

Rajaiah’s firing follows general criticism of chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao’s handling of the epidemic.

Kadiyam Srihari, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti’s (TRS’s) member of Parliament (MP) from Warangal, will be the new deputy chief minister and hold charge of the education ministry.

Srihari was previously a minister in the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government during 1995-2004.

Rajaiah’s firing was preceded by a slew of transfers in the department of health and family welfare, following reports of corruption in the ministry.

Both Srihari and Rajaiah hail from backward communities.

Energy minister C. Laxma Reddy will head the health and family welfare department, while education minister G. Jagadish Reddy will take over the energy portfolio, a government communcation said.

Rajaiah’s exit is the first dismissal in the eight-month-old TRS government, which came to power after a protracted struggle for statehood.

Telangana was officially declared a state on 2 June last year.