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Farewell Amma: Silence in Apollo Hospital after Jayalalithaa’s demise

Since Sunday, when news of her cardiac arrest broke, Apollo Hospital and Greams Lane has seen a huge crowd of boisterous Amma supporters.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2016 02:51 IST
Aditya Iyer
Aditya Iyer
Hindustan Times
Former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa died in Chennai after 75 days of hospitalisation, Apollo Hospitals announced in a press release on Monday.
Former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa died in Chennai after 75 days of hospitalisation, Apollo Hospitals announced in a press release on Monday. (AFP Photo)
         

Since Sunday, when news of her cardiac arrest broke, Apollo Hospital and Greams Lane has seen a huge crowd of boisterous Amma supporters.

Tears, fury, and a defiant confidence in Jayalalithaa’s guaranteed recovery gave way to sadness and frustration as local tv channels falsely reported her demise on Monday evening.

But the hospital ground is now empty of her supporters, with only a heavy police presence and journalists present at 1130pm when the news of her demise was made official.

Chennai was tense, with many shopkeepers closing shutters as a precaution after there were sporadic outbreaks of violence earlier on Monday following the false news broadcasts.

The authorities appear to have waited until the crowd’s had fully dispersed and returned home before making the announcement. The question now is how the security forces will maintain law and order in a state which has seen riots following the death of popular politicians in the past.

At least 5,000 police personnel, including companies from both the Armed Reserve and Tamil Nadu Special Police, were called in as reinforcements by the Chennai Police as part of their security plan. A unit of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) was also present at Apollo Hospital, where the 68-year-old has been convalescing since September 22, to assist forces already deployed there.

Supporters of late Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa Jayaraman at the AIADMK party office in Mumbai.
Supporters of late Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa Jayaraman at the AIADMK party office in Mumbai. ( Reuters File Photo )

The focus across the state that Jayalalithaa has ruled as chief minister six times is now on the meeting of her MLAs currently underway at the AIADMK party headquarters in Royapettah, and who now will be chosen as her successor.

While finance minister O Panneerselvam, who has stood in for Jayalalithaa as an interim CM twice before, appears to be a current favourite, it’s unclear whether any initial appointment made now will be permanent or not.

Read | Jayalalithaa’s journey from an actor to Tamil Nadu’s political star

Party cadre workers initially charged barricades and began hysterically crying when the rumours of her demise surfaced, after several local channels, including, ironically, Jaya TV, announced that she had died early on Monday evening. The brief scuffle continued for a few minutes until Chennai police were able to control the crowd.

Apollo hospital swiftly denied the rumours, saying that the 86-year-old was still alive, and was undergoing medical treatment.

AIADMK workers gather at Apollo Hospital where Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa was undergoing treatment.
AIADMK workers gather at Apollo Hospital where Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa was undergoing treatment. ( V Srinivasulu/HT File Photo )

The 68-year-old has been in hospital since September 22. On Sunday afternoon her condition further deteriorated after she suffered a cardiac arrest during a meeting with one of her doctors.

To her supporters and her party loyalists, she was the comeback queen: A “fighter”, in the words of MDMK chief Vaiko. But it is unclear how they will react now that their beloved Puratchi Thalaivi has died.

That uncertainty will now make many Chennaites wary of what will come next.

First Published: Dec 06, 2016 01:20 IST