After an uncertainty-filled 75 days in hospital, and a tense final 24 hours, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, Amma to millions of Tamils and godmother to legions of AIADMK cadres, was declared dead close to midnight of Monday by Apollo Hospitals. She was 68.
A popular and prolific filmstar, Jayalalithaa+ went on to become a four-term and six-time chief minister — she had to step down in 2001 and 2014 following court judgments+ in corruption-related cases, but was subsequently acquitted and re-instated. She is only the second CM in almost 30 years, besides J&K's Mufti, to die of natural causes while still in office.
"It is with indescribable grief we announce the sad demise of our esteemed honourable chief minister of Tamil Nadu Puratchithalavi Amma at 11.30pm today," a midnight statement from the hospital said. The state has announced seven days' mourning.
Even as a convoy was standing by at the hospital gates to take Jayalalithaa's body to her Poes Garden residence Veda Nilayam, AIADMK legislators met at the party headquarters to elect finance minister O Panneerselvam as the successor+ .
Jayalalithaa was taken to Apollo Hospitals on September 22 after she collapsed of respiratory distress at her Poes Garden residence late that evening. Initial reports from the hospital said she was brought in with fever and dehydration, and doctors soon diagnosed sepsis, a life-threatening infection that spreads in the blood, as the underlying reason. Intensive treatment provided by a team of experts succeeded in reviving her to an extent.
Just when it appeared that she had overcome the worst, she suffered a cardiac arrest around 4pm on Sunday+ . Since then, there was little hope.
The past 24 hours witnessed considerable anxiety, tension and uncertainty across the state. While millions spent a sleepless night and a day with prayers, the AIADMK readied itself for the eventuality and elected OPS as the legislature party leader.
Around 6pm, a few Tamil television channels reported that the chief minister had died, sending Jayalalithaa followers into despair and a few hundreds in front of the Apollo Hospitals into fury. They broke police barricades and threw stones; police resorted to mild force. Soon, Apollo Hospitals put out a statement saying Jayalalithaa was still on life-support, forcing the channels to retract the news. At the AIADMK head quarters, the party flag which was at half-mast after the news broke, fluttered high again.
Shops downed shutters by early. The doctors, however, refused to give up. "She hasn't woken up after the cardiac arrest," a doctor told TOI. "But we are hopeful."
Dr Richard Beale, the in early afternoon, vehicles went off the roads, and schools, colleges and offices called it a day tensivist who flew in from London several times to treat Jayalalithaa, said: "Unfortunately and in spite of the progress she had made, her underlying health condition inevitably meant that the risk of further problems always remained ...The situation is grave, but I can confirm that everything possible is being done to give her the best chance of surviving this shocking event." Apollo Hospitals executive director Sangita Reddy tweeted around 2.45pm: "Despite our best efforts, our beloved CM remains in a grave situation." Four specialists from AIIMS, Delhi were assisting Apollo doctors till late in the evening when the CM remained on life support systems for the heart, lungs and kidneys.
A team of doctors finally pronounced her dead at 11.30pm.