ON MONDAY afternoon, hours before Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was declared dead at Apollo Hospitals in Chennai, all eyes at Tamil Nadu House in New Delhi’s diplomatic area of Chanakyapuri were glued to TV screens as news of her critical condition played out on news channels.
The heavily carved wooden doors on one side of the corridor, which leads to the late chief minister’s suite, was closed. In a small, adjoining room, two men spoke about the last time they had seen Jayalalithaa. “She had come here in July. Apart from the Governor’s suite, this entire section of this floor is her suite and her meeting room. I have never had a chance to speak with her – there is a lot of security with her, and she is here usually for not more than a day…. She has always worked for the poor and all of us have great regard for her,” an employee said, in the afternoon, on the condition of anonymity.
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Inside a senior TN bureaucrat’s office, a green calendar carries her photographs. “This is a picture of the Amma canteen. She started a scheme where food was given to people at cheap rates – Re 1 for idlis and Rs 5 for a bowl of curd-rice. She believed that no one should be deprived of food. All of us are praying for her,” the official said, folding his hands and pointing to another framed photograph of the TN chief minister on his right wall.
According to officials at Tamil Nadu House, they received a call from a senior health department official around 6.30 pm on Sunday. “He told us that senior doctors from AIIMS were required for the CM’s treatment. We contacted AIIMS, but doctors were with the PM in Amritsar,” an official said. Minutes later, as he stopped on a Tamil news news, he added, “AIIMS sent a panel of four doctors today. They reached 15 minutes ago. With god’s grace, she will be fine soon. We are waiting for this news.”
Less than 3 km away, the Tamil Nadu Bhawan on Kautilya Marg is declared out of bounds by security guards. “Most parliamentarians left for Chennai yesterday. There is no one here,” a guard said. As media vans and television cameras are taken out, the guard listened to television journalists speaking on microphones about the confusion over Jayalalithaa’s medical condition. Dismissing reports of her death, a guard said, “She is alive. All of us are praying for her — Hindus, Muslims, Christians. All our prayers are for her speedy recovery.”
That was in the afternoon. Just before midnight, Apollo confirmed her death.