Then MGR, now Jaya!
Suspense has been continuing over the condition of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's health. The doctors at Apollo have released a bulletin on Thursday evening stating that “Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s health continues to improve and is responding adequately to the comprehensive treatment being given to her.” However, there has been a general silence over the CM’s health in the local media.
In such a situation, the only question that one may ask is who is governing the state? Interestingly, reports suggest that none of her cabinet colleagues are entrusted with the job or ready take the reigns of administration. Retired chief secretary and Jaya’s trusted advisor Sheela Balakrishnan and Jaya’s aide Sasikala are said to be calling the shots. All the ministers and senior bureaucrats including chief secretary Rammohan Rao are reportedly taking instructions from Sheela, Sasikala and Ramanujam, another of Jaya's trusted babu's.
Sources say that both Sheela and Sasikala are occupying rooms close to the ICCU where Jaya is admitted. To make things more complicated Tamil Nadu does not have a Governor and Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao is given the additional charge of the State, which is going through an administrative crisis. But this is not the first time that Tamil Nadu State is facing such a peculiar situation. When the then CM MGR was admitted to the hospital in a similar situation as Jaya, in the late 80s, the state was virtually ruled by the bureaucrats.
MGR suffered a kidney failure, and was flown to Brooklyn Hospital, New York for treatment. After Indira Gandhi’s assassination on October 31, 1984, Rajiv Gandhi went in for snap polls a few months ahead of schedule. MGR’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) was in alliance with the Congress. MGR is said to have filed his nomination papers from the hospital bed and there were some reports that he actually did not sign the papers! During the long months of treatment, there was little real news of MGR’s condition but for the periodical press releases that Dr H V Hande issued.
Hande, a medical doctor, is now Bharatiya Janata Party leader but then he was a minister in MGR’s cabinet. The press releases carried little credibility as is the case now with Jaya’s health bulletins. In his usual style playing on the words, M Karunanidhi, called the bulletins: ‘Hande pulugu, and a pulugu, aakasa pulugu’ roughly translated, ‘blatant lies of universal proportions’. Interestingly, once again it is Karunanidhi who is demanding to know the actual health condition of Jaya now.
MGR ruled for three years until his death on Dec 24, 1987. And these years remain one of the many dark spots in Tamil Nadu’s post-independence governance. The situation now in TN is no different! Her associates Sasikala Natarajan, J Elavarasi and V Sudhakaran were also found guilty and they were sentenced to four years’ imprisonmentalong with a fine of Rs. 10 crores. The 66-years-old, Jayalalithaaspent three weeks at the ParappanaAgrahara Central Prison inBengaluru before she returned to her Poes Garden residence in Chennaion conditional bail.
And she had been barred from contesting electionsfor ten more years. But as luck would have it eight months later, onMay 11, 2015 the Karnataka High Court found Jayalalithaa and her threeassociates innocent. Jayalalitha rose like the traditional phoenix, only to be admitted to the Apollo Hospital for the past fortnight. But her party workers hope and pray that just as her politicalfortunes swung positively, so should her health. But the secrecybehind her illness is leading to a lot of rumours.
In fact notallowing immediate family to check in on her added to the rumour mill. The CM’s niece, Deepa Jayakumar was not even allowed into the hospitalpremises. Jayalalithaa’s brother’s daughter was left wondering whyshe, who was so fond of her aunt, was not being allowed to visit her. Governor of Maharashtra and acting governor of Tamil Nadu, Ch Vidyasagar Rao, Congress scion Rahul Gandhi and her adopted son Sudhakaran, atleast were allowed into the hospital but had to suffice to hang around the ward. They too could not have a look at the AIADMKSupremo.