After 74 days of struggle, Jayalalithaa dies: Cremation at 4 pm with full state honours

Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, one of India's most charismatic political leaders, died in Chennai's Apollo Hospital on Monday night after a bitter 74-day battle for life, ending an era in Tamil Nadu politics and plunging the state in immense grief. She was 68. Jayalalithaa, a spinster, breathed her last at the Apollo Hospitals just before midnight, over 24 hours after she suffered a cardiac arrest that derailed the halting progress she had been making on the health front.

 After 74 days of struggle, Jayalalithaa dies: Cremation at 4 pm with full state honours

Tamil Nadu police personnel stand main gate of Apollo hospital, where AIADMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa suffered a cardiac arrest, in Chennai on Monday. PTI

"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 p.m.," the hospital said in a statement. As Jayalalithaa's death became known, a loud wail rent the air outside the Apollo hospital where thousands had gathered since her cardiac arrest on Sunday evening, hoping against hope that she would survive. Her body will be kept at the Rajaji Hall for people to pay their respects, said the AIADMK, which the actor-turned-politician headed for nearly three decades after the death of her mentor and Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran or MGR.

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. Shortly after 1 am on Tuesday, Panneerselvam took the oath of office and secrecy. Thirty-one ministers were also sworn-in with him.

Panneerselvam had stepped into her shoes twice earlier when she was convicted in corruption cases. As Finance Minister, he was given charge of the portfolios held by Jayalalithaa after her admission to Apollo Hospitals on 22 September. A veteran actor, the self-made Jayalalithaa, who was five times Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, was admitted to the Apollo hospital on September 22 with fever and dehydration, just four months after she led the AIADMK to triumphantly retain power in assembly elections.

At one time it seemed she was on the road to recovery but that proved to be an illusion. President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation in paying homage to Jayalalithaa, who was elected to the Rajya Sabha at the start of her political career.

Modi, who enjoyed a personal rapport with Jayalalithaa, said her demise had left a huge void in Indian politics.

Defining her as a mass leader, Modi said: "Jayalalithaaji's connect with citizens, concern for welfare of the poor, the women and marginalised will always be a source of inspiration." Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who too had counted the AIADMK leader as an ally for years, said Jayalalithaa lived the entire life with the same "indomitable courage with which she battled her last illness".

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called her "popular, strong, bold, efficient, people-friendly, charismatic leader". Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar described her death as "very saddening". He announced a day's mourning in his state. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: "Very sad to hear the demise of Amma. A very very popular leader. Aam Aadmi's leader. May her soul rest in peace."

Expressing grief at the passing away of the stalwart of Tamil Nadu politics, President Pranab Mukherjee said, "Heartfelt condolences on the sad demise of Ms. Jayaram Jayalalithaa, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu." "One of India's most charismatic and popular leaders, Ms. Jayalalithaa was a visionary and able administrator. Her life was dedicated to the socio-economic transformation of Tamil Nadu and its people," the President said.

"In her passing away, the nation has lost an icon who was loved and admired by millions. Her contribution to the progress and development of Tamil Nadu will be long remembered," he said. Vice President Hamid Ansari also condoled her death, saying Jayalalithaa's demise is an "irreparable loss to the people of India". "An eminent public figure, a charismatic personality, she had immense influence over the political developments in Tamil Nadu as well as the national level.

"As Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, her contributions towards the economic development of the state and social welfare of the poorer segments will be long remembered and cherished. Her death is an irreparable loss to the people of India," Ansari said.

Expressing grief, Leader of Opposition in Tamil Nadu M K Stalin, said, "Deeply saddened by the demise of our CM Selvi Jayalalithaa. My deepest condolences to the party cadres and well wishers in this hour of grief". "She was an iconic and courageous leader. This is an irreparable loss to the people of Tamil Nadu," he said.

Cries of 'Amma, Amma' from hundreds of AIADMK supporters rent the air outside Apollo Hospitals where Jayalalithaa breathed her last.

Chest-thumping and wailing, men and women could not come to terms that their beloved leader was no more as the ambulance carrying the late Chief Minister left the hospital to her Poes Garden residence.

A cavalcade preceded and followed the ambulance, accompanied by security personnel on its doors to prevent the grief stricken supporters from coming in the way of the vehicle, which inched its way forward.

With inputs from IANS and PTI

Updated Date: Dec 06, 2016 04:57:04 IST