Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, a popular leader who pioneered pro-poor programmes and remained a pole for three decades, died in Chennai on Monday leaving a big void in the state politics.
The 67-year-old leader, who suffered a massive cardiac arrest on Sunday evening, passed away at 11:30 pm on Monday, after battling for life for 75 days, the Apollo Hospitals said in a statement.
Two hours after the announcement of her death, in a swift political transition, her loyalist O Panneerselvam was sworn in as chief minister at a sombre ceremony at the Raj Bhawan along with all the ministers in the erstwhile Jayalalithaa Cabinet.
Panneerselvam had stepped into her shoes twice earlier when she was convicted in corruption cases. As the finance minister, he was given charge of the portfolios held by Jayalalithaa after her admission to Apollo Hospitals on September 22.
Even as her death was announced, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MLAs met at the party headquarters to elect Panneerselvam as the successor to Jayalalithaa.
Jayalalithaa, who scored a historic win in the assembly elections in the state little over six months ago, was admitted to Apollo Hospitals on September 22 with fever and dehydration but she could never recover.
A tinsel heroine, who inherited the legacy of her mentor late MGR, had entered politics in the early 1980s as the propaganda secretary of the AIADMK and was made the incharge of the noon meal scheme undertaken by the MGR government.
Born in a Brahmin family, Jayalalithaa emerged as a fiesty leader in a state where forces of social justice had thrown up an anti-Brahmin political movement even before independence.
She practised politics on her own terms and was one of the two poles in the state for nearly 30 years fighting the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam headed by redoubtable M Karunanidhi.
Only hours earlier in the evening, the hospital had denied reports that Jayalalithaa had died as “baseless and false” when TV channels said she was no more.
“It is with indescribable grief, we announce the sad demise of our esteemed Honourable Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Puratchi Thalaivi Amma at 11.30 pm today,” Apollo Hospitals said in a statement.
“Our honourable Chief Minister Selvi J Jayalalithaa was admitted on 22.9.2016 with complaints of fever and dehydration and underlying co-morbidities. The honourable Chief Minister responded well to the multi-disciplinary care in the Critical Care Unit and subsequently recovered substantially to being able to take food orally.
“On this basis, honourable Chief Minister was shifted from the Advanced Critical Care Unit to the High Dependency Unit, where her health and vitals continued to improve under the close monitoring by our expert panel of specialists.”
Unfortunately, the hospital release said, the chief minister suffered a massive cardiac arrest on the evening of December 4 even while the intensivist was in her room. The chief minister was immediately administered rescusitation and provided ECMO support within the hour.
ECMO is the most advanced treatment currently available internationally. Every possible clinical attempt was made to sustain her revival. However, despite our best efforts, the chief minister’s underlying conditions rendered her unable to recover and she passed away at 11:30 pm on Monday, the release said.
A five-time chief minister, Jayalalithaa pioneered a string of social sector schemes like ‘cradle to baby scheme’ aimed at fighting the curse of female foeticide, free gold coins for those who begot girl child.
She also opened a series of public welfare schemes under brand Amma, as she was popularly called, like ‘Amma canteens’ to low-priced food to the urban poor. There were similar schemes for the poor like ‘Amma salt’ ‘Amma water’ and ‘Amma medicines’.
Jayalalithaa also attracted investment, especially from abroad, in sectors like automobile and IT.
A host of leaders including President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, vice president Rahul, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and a number of film personalities expressed grief over her death.
Modi, who shared good political equation with Jayalalisthaa said he was deeply saddened at her passing away which has left a “huge void” in Indian politics.
“I will always cherish the innumerable occasions when I had the opportunity to interact with Jayalalithaa Ji. May her soul rest in peace,” he said.