A day or two later, an announcement of bonus worth Rs 476 crore for PSU employees was also made. The AIADMK also put out the list of its candidates for the local body elections in October, to indicate that it is business as usual.
Outside the hospital, senior leaders conveyed all is well with Jayalalithaa. ``Amma works so hard for the people so it is good that she will get some rest now,'' said CR Saraswathi, party spokesperson. She is reading newspapers, she added for effect. Forests Minister C Srinivasan was among those who said Jayalalithaa ate idlis with chutney.
Now one year later, the construct has come crashing down thanks to the awakening of yet another AIADMK leader's inner voice. Seven months after O Panneerselvam's conscience pricked him after a meditation seesion at Amma samadhi, now Srinivasan at a public meeting has confessed he never saw Jayalalithaa after she was admitted to hospital and that the idli story was a figment of the imagination.
``Please forgive us for lying. We did not even meet her. No political leader, be they ministers from Delhi or even the state Governor, could meet Amma,'' said Srinivasan.
The thumb rule is if a man has lied once, there is really no reason to believe he is speaking without an ulterior motive the second time round. Srinivasan's decision to come clean now seems guided by an urge to pin the blame on the Sasikala clan that was seen as controlling access to Jayalalithaa at Apollo Hospitals. The fact that Deepa, Jayalalithaa's niece, was not even allowed inside apparently on Sasikala's instructions, being a case in point.
Perhaps realising this motive, TTV Dhinakaran has said even his aunt Sasikala did not step into the Critical Care unit after 1 October. The Mannargudi family on more than one occasion has also said it has in its possession videos of Jayalalithaa during her treatment which it will release at the ``appropriate time''.
Two, it puts a serious question mark over who ran the government and the party from September 22. It is quite obvious Jayalalithaa was not in charge. Will anyone clarify the real story behind securing her thumb impressions over the forms nominating the AIADMK candidates for the three byelections last year?
Three, it raises ethical questions as a government is not expected to lie to its people. Who took the call that it should be mentioned publicly that Jayalalithaa presided over a meeting inside her hospital room? Were ministers like Srinivasan instructed by anyone to cook up the idli story?
Four, in light of the revelations that no one from the government saw Jayalalithaa, why is the Palaniswami government dragging its feet over the judicial probe that was announced by the CM on 17 August. The probe was one of Panneerselvam's pre-conditions for the merger but after getting plum portfolios in the government and appointed party affairs coordinator, the dharma yuddham man seems to have contracted Ghajini-tis. And if Dhinakaran indeed has electronic evidence, what prevents him from releasing them in the public domain.
Last year, M Karunanidhi came in for criticism when he asked for photographs to be released of the chief minister in hospital in order to quell rumours. The same AIADMK leaders, while lying through their teeth, termed the DMK chief's demand as uncouth and an intrusion into Jayalalithaa's privacy. In light of Srinivasan's disclosure, Karunanidhi's position stands vindicated.
What Srinivasan's admission means is that the government took the people of Tamil Nadu for a ride because at the end of the day, the people had every right to know about the medical condition of their chief minister. The initial press releases put out by Apollo Hospitals, reportedly at the behest of the powers-that-be, downplaying the seriousness of her condition, were a clear cover-up operation.
The media, once bitten twice shy, had no option but to play safe by reporting the claims made by the AIADMK and publishing handouts from the hospital. This was because in 2015, journalists who had reported on Jayalalithaa's health condition had been served defamation notices as was BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy.