The unpalatable question is whether Jayalalithaa is currently medically fit to discharge her Constitutional function

Jayalalithaas illness Time to ask some uncomfortable questions
Voices Governance Friday, October 07, 2016 - 21:16

By Kalyan Arun

Activist K. R. 'Traffic' Ramaswamy’s Public Interest Litigation (PIL) may have been thrown out by the Madras High Court, but he did achieve one thing.

His PIL forced Apollo Hospitals, Chennai to issue more detailed bulletins on the condition of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa who has been confined to a hospital bed since September 22. We now have a confirmed statement from the hospital that she is on "respiratory support" as against "speculations” that she is on ventilator. We know that her lungs are affected and that her sugar levels were not okay at all.

And now we have also been told that, though she is making some progress, she needs to be in the hospital for some more time.

The state's acting Governor and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi have visited Apollo Hospital. But we don't know whether they met her, spoke to her, or merely spoke to the team of doctors attending on her.

So it is time that some uncomfortable questions were asked. And it is necessary for the constitutional functioning of the state that these questions are answered.

The shroud of secrecy and the later "openness" on the part of the hospital could indicate that she might have been suffering from something more than merely "fever and dehydration" as originally claimed.

Was she admitted to the hospital in a condition that required respiratory support or was that a later development?

This question needs to be asked and answered as a day after she was admitted to the hospital, there were reports that the state Chief Secretary and Director General of Police met with her. Did that really happen?

It was during those first three or four days that the local bodies elections were announced and the list of AIADMK candidates was released.

Was this list cleared by Jayalalithaa in her capacity as AIADMK supremo before admission to the hospital or after?

So was the composition of the team from Tamil Nadu for the Cauvery talks.

The hard question, and that will be unpalatable to many, is whether Jayalalithaa is currently medically fit to discharge her Constitutional function as head of the government.

With the latest medical bulletin indicating hospitalisation for a prolonged, if unspecified, period of time, what happens to governance? Media reports say that special advisor and retired IAS officer Sheela Balakrishnan is ensuring that the wheels of bureaucracy are running smoothly.

A throw back to 1984 is relevant. When the then Chief Minister MG Ramachandran was hospitalised, the then Governor Sundar Lal Khurana, ensured that there was no vacuum in the political government. VR Nedunchezhiyan, the number two in the cabinet, was asked to take charge, without being designated Acting or Officiating CM.  Though in reality the government was run by a cabal headed by influential Minister RM Veerappan, nominally Nedunchezhiyan the first among equals of a collective leadership.

In fact, Nedunchezhiyan even chaired a meeting of the cabinet in November that year where a formal decision was taken to seek premature end to the term of the state assembly and holding of elections along with the Lok Sabha elections.

Those around Jayalalithaa, Apollo Hospitals and the Governor owe it to the people of the state to clarify whether Jayalalithaa is in a position to discharge her Constitutional function. If yes, how long will it be before she is fully back in action? Does the situation demand a 1984 like intervention to ensure governance continues according to Constitution?

That at least would silence provocateurs like Dr. Subramanian Swamy from demanding imposition of President's rule in the state.

Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.


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