AIADMK Supremo and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Puratchi Thalaivi (Revolutionary Leader) Dr. J. Jayalalithaa, who was fondly called “Amma” by millions of Tamils, passed away at 11.30 pm on December 5, 2016 due to cardiac arrest. She was admitted at the Apollo Hospitals on September 22, 2016 for fever and dehydration. As fever and dehydration were supposedly ordinary health problems, people expected her back at home after a couple of days. But, as her stay got extended and even high profile visitors were not allowed inside to meet her, rumours started flying thick and fast. The absence of her photographs added to the misery. Finally, Apollo hospitals were forced to issue a statement regarding her health condition at least for public consumption.
Meanwhile, on instructions from the center, Maharashtra Governor (Additional charge of TN) Vidyasagar Rao came and visited the hospital. Then, he summoned Finance Minister O. Panneer Selvam and asked him to take charge of the portfolios of Jayalalithaa as well for the smooth continuance of governance.
As days passed by, her condition started deteriorating further causing more concern to the doctors and a specialist from London and specialists from AIIMS also came to extend their expertise supporting the Apollo doctors. The treatment continued on a war footing and Apollo kept on issuing statements even while the rumours kept on spreading in different scales. Party functionaries and cadres thronged in front of the hospital in thousands daily and conducted prayers for the welfare of their beloved leader. However, the crowds disappeared after the Prime Minister announced the demonetisation drive.
Then, when she had a heart attack on 4th evening, Apollo released the statement which came as a shock to the people in general and party cadres in particular. They started gathering near the hospital as TV channels started flashing that Jayalalithaa was in a very critical condition. There were rumours that she had died and it was only a question of the time of official announcement. However, the statement released by Apollo hospitals said that the doctors were trying their level best to revive her.
The treatment to revive her was going on for the full day on 5th and the Center again sent the specialists from AIIMS. By evening the TV Channels started flashing that Jayalalithaa was dead. However, they withdrew after Apollo denied the news. Finally even after an ECMO Treatment attempt, they could not revive her and the end came at 11.30 pm as per the statement from Apollo Hospitals. Her mortal remains were taken to her Poes Garden residence and from there to the famous Rajaji Hall for the public to pay homage. Later in the evening on 6th December, she was buried at a spot close to her Mentor MGR’s memorial within the same premises on the Marina.
The whole country knew that Jayalalithaa had health constraints and that she was not keeping well. There were unconfirmed reports of her getting dialysis done regularly and rumours that acute diabetes had led to removal of a couple of fingers from her foot. She had made it a practice to work from her Kodanadu Estate in Ooty, particularly in summer. She was also unable to attend outdoor events of long duration. So, the secrecy shrouding her admission and subsequent treatment has raised a lot of questions.
Was it really a fact that she got admitted only for fever and dehydration? If so, then why such an ordinary health constraint developed into multi-organ problems leading to prolonged stay finally resulting in death?
Even a week before the heart attack, the hospital management released statements that Jayalalithaa’s condition has improved a lot and that she could get discharged and get back to her residence as and when she desired. Then how come her condition worsened to the level of getting a heart attack?
When we have a history of our political leaders, including former Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu like Annadurai and MGR sent to foreign countries for expert treatment, why was Jayalalithaa not sent? Who decided against sending her to London or US or Singapore?
Why were even high profile visitors not allowed to see her? Why were Jayalalithaa’s close relatives not allowed inside the hospital?
Whose instructions were being followed by Apollo hospitals? Why was Apollo hospitals releasing contradictory statements leading to the spread of various kinds of rumours among the public?
Who gave media the news of her death and why was it withdrawn within minutes? How come Jaya TV also reported her death and withdrew the report later?
Was the ‘official’ news delayed deliberately to take certain decisions behind the scenes?
Although it was a known fact that she was proud of her Hindu Vaishnavite Bhramin identity, why was she buried and who enforced the decision, which was against traditions? On what basis her friend Sasikala was performing the last rites? While her brother’s daughter was not allowed inside the hospital to see her, how come her brother’s son was summoned to be with Sasikala during the last rites?
These are some of the questions which need to be answered, but it is another question whether they will be answered. However, they may remain unanswered, similar to the enigmatic personality of Jayalalithaa.
A Reminiscence of the Past
Jayalalithaa lost her father when she was a child. Brought up by her mother Sandhya, who was a film actress, she was a bright student in school. But her mother, probably influenced by her thought that she could keep her daughter under her care in the same field of activity, forced her into the film industry. Even though Jayalalithaa didn’t have an inclination to become an actor, she obeyed her mother and achieved huge success and became one of the top heroines of her time. Unfortunately Jayalalithaa lost her mother when she was in her early twenties.
The then matinee idol MG Ramachandran established a firm and close working relationship with her and she managed to continue her successful run in the film world. In due course of time, MGR pushed her into politics against her wishes, but again, she yielded to the pressure. MGR made her the propaganda secretary of the party in 1983 and nominated her for the Rajya Saba in 1984. She faced a tough situation in 1987 when MGR died and a split in the party was imminent. But she rose to the occasion and came out successful taking control of the party completely.
When she was the Propaganda Secretary, she came into contact with Sasikala, whose husband Natarajan was a Public Relations Officer in the state government. Sasikala owned a Video Coverage Center with a Cassette Library. Slowly Sasikala won her confidence and entered her residence as a trusted confidante. When AIADMK won the elections in 1991 and formed government, Sasikala evolved as a major player behind the scenes and Jayalalithaa’s first term turned out to be a regime of corruption and crime, flooded with scams. Eventually, she lost in 1996 elections.
Dr.Subramanian Swamy and the DMK filed cases against her for acquiring assets disproportionate to her income, the fate of which lies in Supreme Court now, after her getting convicted by a Sessions Court and subsequent acquittal by Karnataka High Court. Meanwhile, during her regime between 2001 and 2006, she was able to get acquittals from all the other cases filed by the DMK government. During this period only, in 2004, she shocked the world by her Asuric assault on the most revered 2500 years old Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham arresting the Sankaracharyas on false charges of murder. Apart from Spiritual activities, Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal was also focusing more on social activities and he was reaching out to all sections of the society, the poor and downtrodden included. At a time when Kanchi Mutt was reaching glorious heights, Jayalalithaa’s asuric assault happened and people saw and sensed more to that action than what met the eyes. It is sad and unfortunate that she had passed away without even repenting for her action, even after 12 years!
Again in 2011, she was able to win and form government. When things were supposedly going smooth for Sasikala & Co, Jayalalithaa in a sudden turn of events sent Sasikala and others out of her Party as well as residence. That was only for a short time and Sasi was back again inside Poes Garden, calling the shots as usual. Till date it is not clear, why Jayalalithaa sent her out and why she admitted her again, though there were reports that she got wind of the evil designs of Sasikala and her acquaintances living in Poes Garden.
In Septembr 2014, A Special Court in Karnataka convicted Jayalalithaa, Sasikala, her relatives Ilavarasi and Sudhakaran and slapped a sentence of 4 years in the disproportionate assets case. Supreme Court granted bail in October 2014 and in May 2015, the Karnataka High Court set aside the special court judgment and acquitted all of them. Jayalalithaa came back and took charge as Chief Minister after successfully contesting from Srirangam.
In Letter To PM, Actor Gautami Asks ‘Unanswered Questions’ On Jayalalithaa
South star Gautami Tadimalla has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi drawing his attention to what she calls “unanswered questions” about J Jayalalithaa’s treatment and death. The letter is reproduced below.
Shri Narendra Modiji
I write this letter to you today as an ordinary citizen of India. I am a homemaker, a mother and a working woman. My concerns and priorities in my life are those that are shared by many of my fellow countrymen, primarily to build a safe and nurturing environment for my family that will allow them to live a safe and fulfilled life.
I am also one among the crores who are mourning the recent shocking demise of our late Chief Minister, Selvi Dr. J Jayalalithaaji. She was a towering personality in Indian politics and was a great inspiration for women from all walks of life. Her leadership of Tamil Nadu, over several terms in office, has brought us to the forefront in many spheres of development. Selvi Dr. Jayalalithaa ji’s undeniable strength and determination to persevere against all odds are a lasting legacy that will continue to inspire individuals of every gender to persist in pursuit of their dreams in life.
Her demise is all the more tragic and unsettling because of the circumstances over the past few months and the sheer volume of unanswered questions about our late Chief Minister’s hospitalisation, treatment, reported recovery and very sudden passing. There has been a near total blanketing of information regarding these matters. Nobody had been allowed access to her and many dignitaries who visited her with deep concern were denied an opportunity to convey their wishes in person. Why this secrecy and isolation of a beloved public leader and the head of the Tamil Nadu government? What/whose authority restricted access to the late Chief Minister? Who were the concerned persons who were making the decisions about Selvi Dr. J Jayalalithaa ji’streatment and care when her health was apparently in such a delicate state? And who is responsible for these answers to the people? These and many other burning questions are being asked by the people of Tamil Nadu and I echo their voice in bringing them to your ears, sir.
No doubt some might say that it is a moot point because it has happened as it has, but that, sir, is precisely my fear. I ask these questions now because it is a primary concern and right of every citizen of India to be aware of and informed about their democratically elected leaders. To be aware of their state of health and ability to perform their duties for the larger good of the people. To be concerned for the wellness and comfort of a beloved leader of the masses. And the fact that a tragedy of such tremendous scale should not go unquestioned and definitely, not unanswered, under any circumstances. If thisbe the case with a public figure of this magnitude, then what chance does the common citizen of India have when he fights for his personal rights? The confidence of every Indian in the democratic process that makes our nation so great is precious and must be protected against all odds.
I am writing to you now, sir, with the complete confidence that you share my anxiety and determination to uphold the rights of every Indian to be aware and informed of any factor that impacts our day to day life. You have proven yourself in many ways to be a leader who is unafraid to stand up for the rights of the common man and I am confident that you will heed the call of your fellow countrymen.
With my deepest respects and trust
Slowly and steadily, the infamous Mannargudi Mafia, the name with which a section of the media and party mention Sasikala & Co, gained in strength and started controlling everything. Sasikala’s men were placed in important positions across the spectrum of governance. The failing health of Jayalalithaa also added to her problems and she fell into the total control of Sasikala. Her health condition has been on the wane for at least two years, as evidenced by the fact that she couldn’t attend even the events within the city in which the central ministers were taking part. However, despite her health constraints and limited travel for electoral campaign, she led the party to win the 2016 elections and formed the government.
In this kind of a scenario only, Jayalalithaa got admitted to Apollo in September for the treatment, which failed after 75 days resulting in her death.
Jaya and Sasi – The Mysterious Relationship
When Jayalalithaa sent the Mannargudi Mafia out of her house and party lock, stock and barrel in 2012, there was a sudden spurt of reports and articles about Sasikala & Co. The news, reports and columns talked about a lot of theories ranging from Sasikala amassing huge wealth to slow poisoning Jayalalithaa, who was living a life of a caged parrot under the control of Sasikala. There were also reports of Narendra Modi, who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat, warning Jayalalithaa that her life was in danger and sending a couple of trusted maids to Poes garden to take care of Jayalalithaa. However, all those reports and columns fell, when Jayalalithaa readmitted Sasikala into her residence. But then, a section of Ministers and party MLAs apart from the party functionaries and cadres, were always suspicious of the Mannargudi family. However, they preferred to remain silent for their own good.
The opposition which used to go hammer and tongues against Jayalalithaa, before, during and after elections, was conspicuous of their silence against Sasi & Co. Even the media, barring a very small section, preferred to keep away from the Mafia. No media house from the mainstream has had the courage to talk about Sasi and her family. Although Sasikala pretended to have fallen out with her husband Natarajan, he was allegedly the Sutradhari (Master Planner) behind each and every move of Sasikala. It has never been clear if Jayalalithaa could not realize this fact or she couldn’t do anything about it despite knowing it.
Jaytalalitha’s death has brought Sasikala’s family including Natarajan out in the open. They were seen close to Jayalalithaa’s body at the entrance of Rajaji Hall, where it was kept for the public to pay their last respects.
They have been calling the shots despite the presence of Chief Minister Pannerselvam and other cabinet ministers. An aura of audacity was clearly visible in the body language of Sasikala and her family members surrounding Jayalalithaa’s body and the same prevailed until the time of burial.
Center Taking Control
Tamil Nadu has always witnessed riots and violence whenever a mass political leader dies or falls sick. Even if a leader is imprisoned on corruption charges, sporadic violence occurs across the state. Riots happened when Jayalalithaa was arrested and sent to jail. However, during her treatment and after her death, notwithstanding the rumours, there were no riots or violence. Full credit must be given to the center for effective handling of the issue through the Governor and also the timely sending of paramilitary forces to add strength to the security operations. Demonetisation and lack of funds (hot cash) in the hands of political leaders was another reason, for they could not engineer any riots by paying the anti social elements.
Sasikala was literally holding fort inside the hospitals and the Apollo management was reportedly acting as per her instructions. Sources cited it as a reason for not allowing even high profile visitors to see Jayalalithaa and the secrecy shrouding Jayalalithaa’s treatment during the entire period of 75 days. Governor Vidyasagar Rao’s visit to Apollo was the first visible change and it was followed by the summoning of O.Panneerselvam and asking him to handle the portfolios which were held by Jayalalithaa.That the centre has started asserting its position was also visible when Tamil Nadu government joined UDAY Scheme and agreed to implement Food Security Act. It ispertinent to note that these decisions were taken in the middle of October, two weeks after Jayalalithaa’s admission to the hospital.
Also, the Tamil Nadu government was unable to take a decision on the Central government’s demonetization drive either in support of or against it. As both the AIADMK and the DMK have been looting the state for almost 50 years alternatively, they were bothered more about safeguarding their black money rather than opposing the scheme and protesting against it.
The moment the Prime Minister announced the demonetisation scheme on 8 November, the thousands of AIADMK functionaries who had gathered in front of the Apollo hospitals, simply vanished.
The center started coordinating with the government and the hospitals through the Governor and things started moving fast. Apollo started giving periodical statements on Jayalalithaa’s health and the cabinet ministers focused on their job. Center also sent specialists from AIIMS to guide the Apollo doctors in treating Jayalalithaa.
In the meanwhile, the opposition parties in Tamil Nadu started murmuring that the BJP is entering Tamil Nadu through the back door. They cited the TN government’s decisions of joining UDAY Scheme and agreeing to implement Food Security Act, as reasons for their allegation. But the Center ignored their tantrums and went ahead with its actions.
But, as far as the hospital situation was concerned, the Center deliberately allowed Sasikala and her family to be there near the recuperating Chief Minister. It also didn’t bother much about their decision of not allowing any visitors to see Jayalalithaa.
In the immediate aftermath of Jayalalithaa suffering heart attack on 4th, the Central government in anticipation, coordinated through the Governor. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Vidyasagar Rao asking him to visit Tamil Nadu to support the state government at the time of crisis. Again the Center sent specialists from AIIMS.
As the news of party ‘High Command’ asking MLAs to report the party headquarters came on 5th, the Centre immediately sent Union Ministers Venkaiya Naidu and Nirmala Seetharaman to Chennai to take care of the maneuvering and they did it to perfection. The
AIADMK MLAs met and chose O. Panneerselvam as their Legislature Party Leader, even while the official announcement was made by the Apollo Hospitals about Jayalalithaa’s death. Later, O.Panneerselvam along with the present ministers was sworn in by the Governor in a simple event organized at Raj Bhavan.
BJP has its task cut out
Jayalalithaa’s death has created a vacuum in Tamil Nadu politics. AIADMK has always been a party under the control of a leader who has had a charisma with huge mass following. Party Founder M.G. Ramachandran had groomed such a mass through a calculated film career. MGR was such a powerful leader that when he was at his peak, a politician said, “MGR is number 1 and other ministers are Zeroes behind him”. After MGR’s death, Jayalalithaa faced severe hostility from senior colleagues resulting in a split in the party. However, in course of time, Jayalalithaa won over the senior leaders including MGR’s wife Janaki and took full control of the party. While MGR was affectionate to his colleagues, Jayalalithaa was arrogance personified and treated her colleagues as slaves, who yielded in submission literally crawling under her feet.
Jayalalithaa had outshone MGR in many aspects and slowly removed him and his image from all activities, campaign and promotional materials and started projecting herself. She branded herself as “AMMA” (Mother) and won the hearts of her cadres and poor people through her mindless freebies and lavish welfare schemes. The people voted only for Amma. They saw only Amma in the faces of all the AIADMK candidates, election after election. Only the brand ‘Amma’ brought victories and nothing else. The rest of the party leaders know this fact and hence submitted themselves to her.
Now, in her absence, the Mannargudi Mafia is expected to use all its might to capture the party and take control. As an indication of things to come, the family has come out in the open after Jayalalithaa’s death taking full control of her funeral event, apart from the control it exercised over the hospitals during Jayalalithaa’s treatment. Even Sasikala’s supposedly estranged husband Natarajan has also come in front, openly flaunting his closeness with Sasikala and family.
However, a close reading of what all had happened openly as well as behind the scenes from 4th evening to 6th evening, one can find out that the central government has played its cards close to its chest and well too.
The last thing that the BJP would want at present is a split in the AIADMK. The party would prefer a smooth running of Tamil Nadu government at least up to the next parliament elections in 2019. It is quite obvious from the last 75 days that the BJP has been keeping O.Panneerselvam in good spirits and it could make him as the Chief Minister. Sources say that Sasikala wanted her choice Edappadi Palanisamy to be elected as Legislature Party Leader and CM thereafter, which was thwarted by BJP by clever maneuvering.
Political analysts must have noted that the Central government has deliberately allowed Sasikala and family to have their say in Jayalalithaa’s funeral and Prime Minister Modi’s affectionate gestures towards Sasikala and Natarajan to share the grief was also strategic.
BJP has its task cut out for the future. Jayalalithaa’s death has created a huge opportunity for the party to develop itself in Tamil Nadu. Having tasted success in making O. Panneerselvam as the Chief Minister, it should now focus on preventing Sasikala from becoming the General Secretary of the party. Barring Sasikala’s loyalists the rest of the Ministers and MLAs may not like to work under a person like Sasikala, for they have seen how she had kept their beloved leader Jayalalithaa under her control. They also knew that they have been fortunate so far in their lives only because of ayalalithaa.
So, in the event of Sasikala attempting a sort of coup to take control of the party, the party may split in all likelihood and the opposition, particularly the DMK is eagerly waiting to poach maximum number of legislators. Even if BJP (read Center) manages to keep the AIADMK party united under OPS, DMK may try to engineer a split by striking a deal with Mannargudi Mafia.
Hence, the BJP has to focus on (1) isolating Sasikala and family, (2) thwarting her attempt to become the General Secretary of the party and (3) bringing the ill gotten wealth, properties and assets of the Mannargudi Mafia under the radar of IT and other departments. BJP should also have in mind that the Supreme Court is seized of the disproportionate assets case and only the verdict is needed to be delivered. If the SC acquits them and if Sasikala becomes the general secretary of AIADMK, then BJP may have to rue for years over the missed opportunity.
On the other hand, DMK is also not in a good shape. The first and foremost concern for the party is the health condition of the patriarch Karunanidhi. The second concern is the relationship between Azhagiri and Stalin, which has always been strained despite the regular attempts for a lasting compromise by their sister Selvi. The third concern is Kanimozhi’s stake in the party and the corruption charges she is facing for involvement in 2G spectrum and money laundering for Kalaignar TV cases. Her mother Rajathi Ammal has also met Sasikala recently and if Stalin tries to isolate Kanimozhi, she may strike a deal with Sasikala, a possibility which cannot be ruled out. Fourthly, the precarious situation of the Maran brothers who have embroiled themselves in various scams and are facing court cases. Fifth concern is that its ally Congress has been decimated across the country and its position in Tamil Nadu is pathetic and beyond repair. The presence of Karunanidhi is the only thread which is keeping the DMK united and his absence from the political scene may wreak havoc in the party, although Stalin is likely to take control of the major section. BJP must take these factors also into consideration and act accordingly.
The other opposition parties like Ramadoss’s PMK, Vijayakanth’s DMDK were all decimated in the last elections. DMDK, which was in the third position since the time of its birth, has lost its share considerably and attained the fourth position allowing BJP to garner the third position in the recently held by-elections. Apart from these three parties, other nonentities like Communists, Vaiko’s MDMK, Seeman’s Nam Thamizhar Katchi, Thirumavalavan’s Viduthalai Chiruthaikal katchi, etc., are also looking at the developments to make their decisions.
The most important thing for the center to do is to keep a close watch on Sasikala’s husband Natarajan. It must remember that Natarajan has allegedly been the ‘Sutradhari’ all these years, scripting each and every move and act of Sasikala in controlling the party, government and its leader Jayalalithaa. Natarajan is not an ordinary force. He has close acquaintances in all the parties and has good political connections across the country. He has been flirting with pro LTTE elements and also Tamil separatists. One of the most significant things which Jayalalithaa did was keeping him away from political limelight. But it’s a different matter that he took it to his advantage and carried on his shady activities. Now he has come out in the open and he must be kept under surveillance.
The absence of Jayalalithaa and the subsequent split in the party, if it happens, would not augur well for the country in general and the state in particular. An unstable scenario may lead to the rise of chauvinistic, separatist and anti-national forces which would certainly strike a deal with Islamic terrorists, Maoists, evangelical forces and foreign funded NGOs, which is not new to Tamil Nadu.
The Center and the BJP have their task cut out and they must rise to the occasion.