Mystery over Jayalalithaa's death: Prescribed wrong diabetes meds before hospitalisation?

A leaked email from a senior journalist quotes the Apollo management as saying the late Chief Minister was on “wrong diabetes medicines” before being hospitalised in September

What was being murmured cautiously until now, has now come out into the open. Questions swirl over late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's illness, treatment and her death on 5 December in Apollo Hospitals in Chennai. Jayalalithaa was rushed to the hospital on 22 September and spent over 75 days there, with little information being given out by the hospital and state government, until she succumbed to a cardiac arrest on 5 December.

On Thursday, Leader of the Opposition, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) MK Stalin demanded that the state government should release a white paper on the treatment meted out to Jayalalithaa. Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) chief S Ramadoss too issued a statement with similar demands.

What has added grist to conspiracy theories surrounding Jaya’s illness and death, is an email, allegedly written by senior journalist and NDTV consulting editor Barkha Dutt, to various email addresses within the private news channel. The email written by Dutt passes on information to the channel on “off record” details given to her by “one of the Apollo Reddy sisters” who form part of the management of the hospital, alongwith their father Pratap C Reddy. In the email, Dutt is alleged to have written – “she was being given wrong medicine for diabetes… before she was brought to them…” – the ‘she’ being referred to in the email is Jayalalithaa, who suffered a cardiac arrest on the intervening night of 4-5 December, a few hours before this email was purportedly written.

On cross verifying with staffers at NDTV, they did confirm that the email had indeed been sent by Dutt – a couple of staffers received the email in their inboxes. Emails to the NDTV management, including Dr Prannoy Roy, Co-Founder of the channel went unanswered. This reporter reached out to Barkha Dutt, Prannoy Roy as well as to various other senior journalists in NDTV via Twitter, requesting a response on this email, but none were forthcoming.

Read the letter here:

 Mystery over Jayalalithaas death: Prescribed wrong diabetes meds before hospitalisation?

On 11 December, NDTV’s official Twitter handle tweeted that “Email, Twitter accounts of senior NDTV journalists have been hacked. Attempts being made to use emails out of context. We are asking relevant authorities, including courts, to take strong action.” Following this, the ‘leaked email’ from Dutt’s account was made available online by anonymous hacker group Legion which claimed responsibility for the hacking. In an interview to Washington Post, a member of Legion is reported to have stated to the publication that “his group had access to servers like that of India's biggest private hospital chain, Apollo. He said they were unsure about releasing data from those servers because it might cause “chaos.”

When contacted on this intrigue, Apollo Hospitals did not have any comment to make. An email questionnaire to Chairman Pratap Reddy went unanswered.

Tamil Nadu's former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's funeral procession. PTI

Tamil Nadu's former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's funeral procession. PTI

Questions To Heir Apparent Sasikala

Voters and cadre of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) are questioning as to why the admission, ailment and treatment of the late Chief Minister was shrouded in such mystery. Firstpost had earlier reported on the questions being asked of Jayalalithaa’s close confidante VK Sasikala who was by her side throughout her last 75 days at the hospital.

Now VK Sasikala is all set to take over leadership of the third largest party in Parliament, the AIADMK. “Chinnamma (Sasikala’s moniker, meaning little mother in Tamil) will unanimously be elected as the next General Secretary of the party,” said AIADMK spokesperson C Ponnaiyan, while speaking to reporters at a brief press meet at Jayalalithaa’s memorial at the Marina Beach on Thursday. “It is the desire of the entire party that Chinnamma should take over the leader’s mantle. Chinnamma has functioned as the conscience of Amma (Jayalalithaa). Chinnamma has played a large part in the glory attained by our Amma," he said. He added that the General Body and the Working Committee of the party would meet soon to make the announcement of her elevation formal.

When contacted about the ‘leaked email’ a senior party source who did not wish to be named, stated that if true, the charges were “serious”. “Please send me the copy of the email and I will get back to you,” he said. The leader was not available for comment since. Other senior party functionaries did not wish to speak on the issue.

In the meanwhile, as a constructed event plays out at Poes Garden, residence of the late Jayalalithaa as well as that of Sasikala, party leaders and cadre line up every day to greet ‘Chinnamma’ and urge her to take charge of the party. Party mouthpiece Jaya TV airs daily, an embarrassed-looking Sasikala nodding her head vigorously, seemingly declining the leaders’ request for her to take over.

In the districts as well as in Chennai, posters sprang up since December 10, when leaders, for the first time, openly urged Sasikala to take over. These posters showed photos of Sasikala and Jayalalithaa, hailing the new leader of the party, some urging her to take over Amma’s mantle. Many posters showed a pictorial succession – former Chief Minister CN Annadurai, party founder and former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran, the late Jayalalithaa, followed by Sasikala’s mugshot.

But in the dead of night, across districts and Chennai city, the images of Sasikala alone in these posters have been defaced or torn. In Trichy’s Manapparai, cow dung was hurled onto a large banner put up for Sasikala on Wednesday night, allegedly by disgruntled AIADMK cadre. Loyalists who put up the banner, went to work on Thursday morning, cleaning out the dung. In other parts of the state, Sasikala’s face on these banners are smeared with tar, black paint or ripped off.

Chorus For Probe Grows

But outside the hallowed halls of power at Poes Garden in Chennai, a chorus is growing for enquiries into the illness, treatment and death of Jayalalithaa. “Why was no information given to the public about the Chief Minister’s illness and treatment?” asked C Lakshmanan, political analyst and Associate Professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies.

Speaking to CNN News18 on 13 December, S Gurumurthy, Editor of Tamil magazine Tughlaq and an RSS ideologue demanded a probe into treatment given to Jayalalithaa. “Jayalalitha was in hospital for 50 days, she was ailing for months and in these cases let us assume you have to administer medicine to her which is risky. Who will you consider, you should consult a relative or somebody. If there is no relative who did they consider? It’s an issue because it’s an issue concerning medical discipline. We need to go into who did the wrong thing or something. Whether the medical discipline was observed or not is a matter of enquiry,” he said.

Retired bureaucrat MG Devasahayam too echoed the growing concerns. “A white paper is done by the government, so we need a Supreme Court monitored judicial probe into how Jayalalithaa died,” he told Firstpost. “What was the mystery all about? Why did the state government not issue a single statement about the Chief Minister’s health and treatment? It is also evident from the beginning that Apollo was lying and giving out misleading information. The first press release said that Jayalalithaa was brought in for treating fever and dehydration. Now it has come to light that she was brought in in a collapsed state. The Centre must also answer on why they have been silent. Is the Centre party to this deceit of the people of Tamil Nadu?” he said.

As Sasikala gets set to take over from her ‘sister’ Jayalalithaa, questions are many. And the party, the hospital as well as the state government must give some answers soon.

The author tweets @sandhyaravishan

Updated Date: Dec 15, 2016 16:54:21 IST