Some semblance of governance in the State
Thanks to the proactive intervention of the acting Governor of Tamil Nadu, Ch Vidyasagar Rao, the deadlock in governance since the last week of September due to the prolonged hospitalisation of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has been resolved to some extent. The Governor held discussions with senior most Cabinet ministers like O Panneerselvam and top officials like the Chief Secretary recently, and announced that Panneerselvam would preside over the Cabinet meetings until the ailing Chief Minister resumed her duties.
This arrangement has been hailed as pragmatic by impartial political observers who point out that a similar arrangement was in place in 1984 when the late Chief Minister MG Ramachandran was convalescing in a US hospital. But opposition leaders like DMK chief M Karunanidhi smell the Centre’s hand in the initiative. Vidyasagar Rao has, however, denied any such intervention from the Centre, and states that this interim arrangement is his own initiative after talking to top leaders of the ruling AIADMK and that he has not sent any report to the Union Home Ministry. In fact, he sent a report to the North Block only a couple of days ago, explaining the interim arrangement.
Karunanidhi has been seeking the appointment of an interim chief minister, while other opposition leaders, including those of the left parties, are not enthusiastic about the idea. But they are keen that the government apparatus should not suffer because of the “administrative vacuum”.
DMK treasurer and Opposition leader in the State Assembly MK Stalin, has, however, welcomed the Governor’s decision allocating the CM’s portfolios to Panneerselvam. Stalin also called on Pannerselvam at the Secretariat and requested him to call an all-party meeting on the issue of setting up the Cauvery Management Board.
The main Apollo Hospital in the city where Jayalalithaa is under treatment is witnessing a steady stream of VVIPs seeking to know her health status from the hospital authorities. They included Union Ministers Arun Jaitley and M. Venkaiah Naidu, BJP president Amit Shah, Congress Vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Kerala Governor P Sathasivam, Kerala Chief Minister Pinnarayi Vijayan, former TN Governor K Rosaiah and Puducherry Chief Minister Narayanaswamy.
Though they could not meet her, presumably to avoid any further infections, they elicited the details of her treatment from hospital authorities. The uniform refrain from them is: “The Chief Minister is making steady progress and she will resume her duties soon.” Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu has arranged special worship at the Tirumala shrine, directing the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanam authorities to send the Lord’s ‘prasadams’ to Jayalalithaa. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has sent a personal message to his TN counterpart, wishing Godspeed.
State leaders, cutting across the political divide, have also been calling at the hospital to inquire about the progress of treatment. They include Stalin, GK Vasan of the Tamil Maanila Congress; Thol Thirumavalavan of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi; Paattaali Makkal Katchi founder S Ramadoss; and former TNCC chief EVKS Ilangovan. Rajathi Ammal, wife of Karunanidhi and mother of DMK MP Kanimozhi, was one of the star visitors, and she spoke to Sasikala, the confidante of Jayalalithaa, and acquainted herself with the treatment procedures. Though Karunanidhi did not visit the hospital, he had issued a statement wishing Jayalalithaa speedy recovery.
Apart from Apollo’s in-house specialists, the Chief Minister is under observation by Dr Richard Beale, critical care specialist and clinical director and professor of intensive care medicine at the London-based Guy’s and St. Thomas NHS Foundation Trust, and two experts from the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (Delhi), Dr GC Khilnani and Dr Nistish Naik.
The understanding is that the Chief Minister is provided with respiratory support. Since there have been no regular bulletins on her health from Apollo, except for occasional cryptic statements that “she is making a steady progress”, crowds of AIADMK cadres are organising regular prayers for her quick recovery outside the hospital. Special worships are also being organised in many temples, mosques and churches all over the State.
In the absence of clear-cut statements from the hospital, the social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and Whatsapp messenger are agog with rumours and posting of “malicious and false content messages” about the Chief Minister’s health, compelling the Cyber Cell of the Chennai City Police to take steps to block and delete such posts. The Cyber Cell arrested on Saturday a trainee priest Antony Jesuraj on charges of posting and sharing false information through his Facebook account. With his arrest, the number of such detentions in the State has gone up to seven. Fifty cases have also been registered by the police so far. These steps are criticised as “political vendetta” by Karunanidhi and Ramadoss.