Tamil Nadu was caught in frantic speculation about the health of chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Friday, a day after the reticent leader was admitted to a Chennai hospital with what doctors and the ruling AIADMK described as high fever and dehydration.
“Amma is absolutely fine and there is was nothing to worry. She will be back in action soon,” said party spokesperson C Ponnaian, one of the many AIADMK leaders and supporters camped outside Apollo Hospital, where she was rushed on Thursday night from her Poes Garden residence.
Television footage showed pictures of wailing party cadres and anxious party leaders outside the hospital even as rumour mills started working overtime, fuelled by the party’s and government’s zealousness to wrap all information on her health under layers of secrecy.
“That she had to be rushed to a hospital closer home rather than to the SRM hospital (her preferred hospital)…indicates an ailment that could be more severe than fever and dehydration,” a senior doctor said on condition of anonymity.
Jayalalithaa, a former actress, is known to be a chronic diabetic, suffering from high blood pressure and arthritis and her swearing in ceremony was also cut short.
Several attempts in the past for information or any comment on her health have been dealt with severely by the government.
DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy are facing defamation cases for speculating on her health. A spate of publications that speculated on her health too were slapped with defamation cases.
After she returned from a 21-day stint in jail in 2015, she cloistered herself in her official residence, refusing to emerge for 217 days.
On Friday, Karunanidhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were among several leaders who wished the chief minister a speedy recovery.
Apollo hospital said the CM was in a stable condition and currently under observation. Sources said she was likely to spend the most of Friday in the hospital.
Sources said that Jayalalithaa had complained of breathlessness.
Jayalalithaa is Tamil Nadu’s most popular political figure who won an unprecedented second term in May this year and is the undisputed leader of the AIADMK, which has little by way of a second-rung leadership.
However, her health has been a matter of public speculation for long, especially after her re-election as chief minister in May 2016, as her public appearances have become fewer. Her swearing in ceremony was also cut short, with all the ministers taking oath in two groups of 15 each.
“She is too strong for anything to happen to her,” said J Venkatakrishnan, an AIADMK supporter.
The government too tried to send out the same impression. Even from hospital, Jayalalithaa continued building brand Amma by offering Amma Wi fi in 50 public places like bus stations, parks and others and give internet access there.
Even from within the confines of the Appolo Hospital, she announced the setting up of a 200,000 sq.ft. IT building in Chennai at a cost of Rs 80 crore.