On Friday, 2 December, while watching news on TV in the high-dependency ward of Apollo Hospitals in Chennai, Jayalalithaa with some difficulty, scribbled a short note addressed to Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao. It contained a message for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The one-line note said that the PM should be advised not to interfere with the amount of gold owned by Indians as it was a “matter of sentiment”. This is proof that the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, two days before she suffered the fatal cardiac arrest, was fully aware of what was happening around her, including the disruption caused due to demonetisation in different parts of India. The note showed that Jayalalithaa’s faculties were working well, corroborating the version put out by the doctors that she was on the road to recovery.
Reliable sources have confirmed that the note was later shown to Tamil Nadu in-charge Governor Vidyasagar Rao, perhaps with an intention that the message will be conveyed by the Centre’s representative in Tamil Nadu to the Prime Minister.
On Sunday evening, sometime between 4.30 pm and 5 pm, Jayalalithaa was watching TV in her room when she suffered a cardiac arrest. Fortunately, a critical care specialist was by her side when she collapsed. He saw the parameters falling and pressed the panic button, administering CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) almost immediately. It was after that that she was put on ECMO, a heart assist device.
The cardiac arrest had undone all the progress made by Jayalalithaa since 22 September when she was admitted to Apollo Hospitals, almost unconscious. Almost everyone took the cue, going by the hospital’s admission that things looked “bleak”.
Two people stepped on to centrestage at this point in time. Sasikala Natarajan, Jayalalithaa’s close aide and Governor Vidyasagar Rao, who was asked to immediately rush from Mumbai to Chennai. Rao drove to Apollo Hospitals directly from Chennai airport, to get a first hand report on the CM’s health status.
Informed sources reveal that every single decision from then on, on what and how to do next, was taken with Sasikala’s concurrence. The sight of AIADMK leaders falling at Sasikala’s feet in public while also asking her to lead the party may have surprised people outside but those who witnessed the political dynamics and body language inside Apollo on 5 December, were left in no doubt that she is the next leader. Everyone — from O Panneerselvam to the chief secretary to the ministers — was talking only to Sasikala for the final nod.
Sources privy to what happened during those crucial 30 hours say “no one had any problems with taking instructions from Sasikala”. She took the decision that Jayalalithaa’s resting place will be next to the MGR Memorial on Marina Beach. An eyewitness revealed that either involuntarily or deliberately, those in the party and the government seemed to rally around Sasikala.
At the same time, Governor Rao was keeping the PM informed directly about the developments on the second floor of Apollo, where Jayalalithaa was admitted now in the critical care unit. The two spoke to each other several times on phone over Monday and Tuesday, with the PM keen that the Governor ensure there was no breakdown of law and order situation. Rao was asked to coordinate and take charge of things till the new government was in control.
Highly reliable sources reveal that it was decided around 4 pm that Jayalalithaa’s demise will be announced at 7 pm. But the breaking news flash on a Tamil news channel at around 5.30 pm that she had passed away, led to unruly scenes outside Apollo Hospitals. That got the decision makers nervous and the hospital was reportedly asked to put out a denial immediately.
The powers-that-be feared that emotional AIADMK cadre could take law into their own hands, which the police may not be able to contain. It was then decided that the announcement will be made close to midnight, by which time the crowds would have thinned and the police would be in control.
Apollo Hospitals however, denies that it put out any wrong information under pressure from the political dispensation. It says that the AIIMS doctors who checked the CM after 6 pm were of the opinion that while nothing much could change dramatically, it was not all over yet. The hospital maintains that the end came only at 11.30 pm.
In the days to come, the Centre seems to see a role for itself in Tamil Nadu, hand-holding the new administration. A small indication of that was the letter of appreciation written by Governor Rao for the Tamil Nadu police force, for the manner in which it ensured everything on 6 December went off smoothly. That the Governor, who has served in the Union Home ministry under Prime Minister Vajpayee, reached out directly to the police when an elected government is in place, raised eyebrows. But for now the letter has created a positive vibe. Sources say DGP TK Rajendran was touched by the Governor’s move and pointed out that no one in the past had appreciated the effort put in by the cops on the field.
First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 17:15 IST