The barricades in front of Apollo Hospitals on the Greams Road in Central Chennai lie idle. The police force deployed in front of the gates during the past few months look more relaxed. A handful of policemen and security guards at the gate stop and search everyone entering the hospital premises. The usual clusters of anxious men and women, mostly party workers, dressed in their party flag colour bordered white dhotis and white shirts are missing. A few women with an inch of turmeric on their face and a circle of vermillion on their foreheads sit on the street outside, near the barricades, not discussing about their beloved ‘Amma’ but about demonetising the two Rs 500 rupee notes they have and about paying change for an auto rickshaw. The usual media crowd which reported on the comings and goings of VIPs into the hospital premises is not as brisk as it used to be. The high standing camera tripods and the barricades blocking the media are missing. The flowers and fruits and Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s smiling photos are not found. There is no singing of hymns, praying for her speedy recovery. And the only talk among the in patients and others is the government move to demonitise high-value currency notes.
For the 51st day today, the 68-year old Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa continues to be in the hospital. She was admitted to the hospital on the midnight of September 22, for “fever and dehydration.” Later, various press statements from Apollo said the chief minister was under “respiratory support” and “passive physiotherapy”. Unfortunately, after the press statement from Apollo on October 21, which said, the chief minister is “interacting” and “progressing gradually” there had not been any formal press release from Apollo. However, hospital chairman Dr Pratap C Reddy in an ad hoc press conference on November 4, said, “the chief minister is getting well and she understands what is going on around her. Teams of doctors and prayers of millions made this excellent progress possible.” He also said she has completely recovered and would soon decide when she wants to go back home.
But eight days after Dr Reddy’s interaction, there has been no information sent out to the party cadres or the media or the 7.8 million people of the state about the status of the chief minister’s health. One of the leading English newspapers in the state had, a week ago, quoted hospital sources stating that Jayalalithaa would be shifted from the CCU soon. However, the AIADMK cadres, though feel confident about her coming back to good health soon, only continue to hear these informal reports.
“There has been no authentic statement from the hospital or the state government as to how she is recuperating. If she is well and moved to the special ward why are they hesitant to tell that she is fine and recovering?” asks a senior journalist who has been closely following the happenings inside Apollo in these 50 days.
On the other hand, AIADMK’s former minister C Ponnaiyan, in an interview to IANS, had come on record saying, “her health condition has improved now. The remaining health issues can be addressed while she is in a room or even at her residence”. He also added that “lung infection is under control. She has passed the critical stage and the respiratory system is being weaned away. It is being used on and off”. This was echoed as a banner in the AIADMK party’s official organ Namathu MGR.
However, when a leading corporate hospital like Apollo which is known for treating VIPs, did not mention anything about the chief minister being in CCU, the question is why a former minister from AIADMK be on record about her being treated in the Critical Care Unit.
The absence of official communication on Jayalalithaa’s health and the continuous informal statements about her recovering only raise doubts as to what is actually happening inside the hospital and if there is a terrible fight between the hospital and the chief minister’s confidantes.