Chennai: J Jayalalithaa’s health was never a matter of concern till her imprisonment in a disproportionate assets case in 2014. Later she was acquitted. A private person she was, her health status was never revealed to the public.
Jayalalithaa’s last public appearance was on September 20, two days before she was admitted to the Apollo Hospitals. When Union Ministers M Venkaiah Naidu and Pon Radhakrishnan flew from New Delhi to participate in a ceremony for the launch of a new line at the Chennai airport metro station, Jayalalithaa joined them via video conference from her office despite being in Chennai. “She was already unwell. She was brought in a wheelchair to her chamber that day and a video was shot there,” an official in her security team said.
Her health declined rapidly after her release from jail in Karnataka. That was the period when her opponents started pointing to her reclusive lifestyle and reduced working hours.
She refrained herself from key responsibilities after being sworn in as the Chief Minister. Trusted aides ran the government.
A senior police officer, who served in her security team, recalled an incident after the last general elections. Midway to Fort St George, she suddenly said she wanted to return home. She was in pain and was dizzy.
Another officer spoke of changes made in her security protocol after her health declined in 2015. “Before her conviction in the assets case, there used to be a two-feet gap between the Chief Minister and her security personnel. She appeared weak after her imprisonment. That gap was reduced to one feet so that we could lend a helping hand in case of an emergency. In the last two years, she found it difficult to stand for a long period of time. She used elevators to reach the stage during public rallies, she chose to sit and deliver speeches,” the officer said.
A former state minister said: “It was her imprisonment (in 2014) that derailed her health. She refused to meet doctors in prison, refused to share her medical prescriptions until some senior leaders and bureaucrats managed to persuade her. We shipped a especially-made chair to the prison, and leaders slept outside the prison to convince her that she was not alone. But when she emerged from prison, Amma was different. Neither the bail nor the acquittal made her happy.”