Science has proved that uncertainty in humans leads to heightened distress. And it is this distress that is being witnessed in Tamil Nadu ever since chief minister J Jayalalithaa was hospitalised in Chennai with “fever and dehydration” almost two weeks ago. That the administration has remained tight-lipped about the details of her health condition has not only caused concern in political circles but has also led to much speculations. It was only in May that the AIADMK leader was re-elected as the chief minister with a thumping mandate — a reflection of her popularity among the people of the state.
The uncertainty surrounding Ms Jayalalithaa’s health has led to a chain of events: Party workers and well-wishers have thronged outside the hospital where she is undergoing treatment, and special prayers are underway for her speedy recovery. While these reflect the love the people have for her, there is also widespread fear among the people. Reports of people stocking food supplies anticipating unrest and of politicians (and even ruffians) asking shops to down their shutters show this.
The police have been able to maintain law and order but there should be no secrecy about the health of an elected leader holding public office. The Madras High Court believes so, and on Tuesday, based on a PIL, has asked the state administration to give details about the chief minister’s health.
The current uncertainty and speculation about Ms Jayalalithaa’s health points to a deep anomaly in the way many political parties function. In the case of the AIADMK, the apparent lack of inner-party democracy and the over-reliance on an individual has meant that all decisions emanate from one person; and the party functions around that person.
While sympathisers point out that the style of functioning is an “internal matter” of the party, it becomes a matter of public concern when that party runs the government. The health of the head of the government is a matter of public concern and there should be no shroud of secrecy over it.
The state witnessed a similar hysteria and tension almost three decades back when then AIADMK leader and chief minister MG Ramachandran was admitted to a hospital in Chennai following a kidney ailment. Given that there was a precedent, the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu could have avoided this situation. They owe it to people of the state.