Governance in TN takes a back seat with Jayalalithaa in hospital

Governance in TN takes a back seat with Jayalalithaa in hospital (File) A horde of concerned public waiting outside Apollo hospital in Chennai, after Jayalalitha was hospitalised there | PTI

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram, who has been hospitalised for the past five days with fever and dehydration, is recovering and responding to all tests, said a press statement issued by the doctors at Apollo hospital on Sunday evening. While the Chief Minister still recuperates, press statements and party releases continue to be issued from the hospital. The very next day after she was hospitalised, a statement on Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department was issued under the Chief Minister’s instruction.

On Monday, while the authorities maintained that she would continue to be in the hospital for few more days, the candidate list for all 12 corporations going to elections on October 17 and 19 was issued by the AIADMK in her name. She also condoled the death of 15 people in a road accident in Ariyalur near Tiruchy in Tamil Nadu, announcing a compensation for the relatives of the families. But speculations are rife about her health, in the absence of any concrete statement either by the hospital or by the government or from her party. With every other minister and party cadre making a beeline to the hospital premises at Greams road in Chennai, the state secretariat wears a deserted look.

Fort St George, the seat of administration in Chennai, which used to be flocked by AIADMK cadres and relatives of ministers, doesn’t have any VIP visitors these days. A few review meetings, say sources in the secretariat, have been held as scheduled, but files have piled up in these five days waiting for the Chief Minister’s concurrence. The anxiety about CM’s health condition is rife in the corridors of power in the secretariat. Apparently, during every AIADMK regime in Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa was always at the helm of affairs and every movement in the government happened under her nose. It may be recalled that she is the only Chief Minister in the history of Tamil Nadu to reshuffle the cabinet or the bureaucracy every often for administrative reasons. Her absence for more than five days, along with a lack of movement, lends credence to conjecture.

In a statement on Tuesday, Pattali Makkal Katchi leader Dr S.Ramadoss demanded that the chief minsiter release an audio or video from the hospital to put an end to the rumours. One of the opposition leaders, who earlier wished her good health, has also said that such speculations should not be allowed to endure. Congress leader Karti Chidambaram tweeted, “The best way to end rumours is transparency. A categorical visual is the need of the hour. Uncertainity, rumour, and gossip is not good for TN.”

While rumours refuse to die down, it is still unclear as to who calls the shots when the CM is in the hospital. According to a press statement from the government, Jayalalithaa convened a meeting inside the hospital, between 4.30pm and 5.30pm, with the authorities to discuss the interim directions given by the Supreme Court with regard to Cauvery water row. The court had earlier asked the attorney general to facilitate a meeting with the executives of both the states.

According to unconfirmed reports from the hospital, it was neither the Chief Secretary nor the all-powerful advisor, but an extra constitutional authority who was calling the shots. Top bureaucrats, who wished to remain unnamed, say that this extra constitutional authority has completely taken over the government related issues and issuing orders to the bureaucrats. Another interesting fact is the CM doesn’t have any blood relatives. A section of observers wonder what moral, ethical or legal authority the extra constitutional entity possesses, to liaison the CM’s medical requirements with the doctors.

Even observers and opposition wonder why the Governor has not visited the CM at the hospital when the rumours fly thick and fast. Though it may not be a protocol, customary practice demand that the governor visit the CM whenever the latter is ill and admitted to hospital. Tamil Nadu doesn’t have a full fledged governor. The decision of Maharashtra governor Vidyasagar Rao, holding additional charge, not to visit the ailing CM raised eyebrows in a few quarters.

The real question, however, remains: Even retired bureaucrats are worried that an extra constitutional authority gaining super powers is a recipe of disaster for the state. 

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