Dhruba Jyoti, New Delhi: More than two weeks ago, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa was admitted to
Chennai’s Apollo Hospital with complaints of high fever and dehydration, triggering alarm across the state.
By then, rumours mills in Tamil Nadu had been working over time for months as Jayalalithaa’s public appearances steadily decreased – some of them were even dragged to court by the CM for speculating on her health.
Over the past 17 days, as the AIADMK chief recuperated on the second floor of Apollo Hospital, the state government strictly controlled the flow of information, sparking feverish speculation. Here’s what we know so far:
There is still little clarity over what exactly ails the 68-year-old. For the first 10 days, the hospital sent out cryptic health bulletins that specified little other than she had fever and was recovering. Her party also insisted that “Amma” would be back in the administrative saddle soon.
But it is increasingly clear that this won’t be the case and the CM will be under treatment for some time.
First, the Apollo flew in a doctor from London who specializes in critical care and multi-organ failure.
A few days later, a three-member team of specialists – a cardiologist, a pulmonary specialist and a anesthesiologist — was rushed to Chennai from Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
The same day Apollo detailed her treatment for the first time — decongestion of lungs, nebulisation for breathing, administration of antibiotics, supportive therapy, and general nursing care.
Most people now think her critical organs are severely affected and the infection is worse than previously thought of.Speculation and frenzy
The secrecy shrouding the chief minister’s health has lead to wild speculation and a flurry of fake messages and morphed photos adding to the frenzy. For the first 10 days, a photo showing the CM in an intensive care bed went viral across the state, only to be proven fake. Audio messages faked in Jayalalithaa’s voice have also been doing the rounds. The state government and the hospital have also repeatedly denied rumours that she is dead or suffering from an incurable disease. Her supporters have also increasingly got anxious. Many have held public pujas, others tried to immolate themselves and pierced their skins to please the gods.
Politics and administration
The CM’s health has also triggered a political churning in the state. The ruling AIADMK suddenly appears vulnerable with no visible second-rung leadership. DMK chief M Karunanidhi has already demanded photographic evidence, only to be rebuffed.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was the first big national leader to visit her in hospital on Friday and told reporters that the CM was recovering well.
But politics over her health has refused to die down, partially because the state has a history of incapacitated chief ministers and ensuing chaos. When Jayalalithaa’s mentor MG Ramachandran died in 1987, it triggered a bitter political tussle with no clear successor that cost the party, AIADMK, an election. Though Jayalalithaa emerged triumphant, memories of the shock and the messy successor battle have been brought back.
The CM’s absence has also triggered an administrative vacuum that has been filled up by her trusted lieutenant Sheela Balakrishnan, who is looking after the daily affairs of the state. The retired IAS officer operates from a room close to the CM’s in Apollo and instructs even ministers, say sources.
But even this arrangement seems to be not enough, especially at a time Tamil Nadu is locked with Karnataka in a heated feud over Cauvery water sharing. On Friday, the governor met two senior ministers and a top bureaucrat to discuss the administrative situation in the state.