Sidelined AIADMK leader V K Sasikala, out of jail on a five-day parole, on Saturday, visited her husband M Natarajan, who is recovering at a hospital in Chennai after undergoing a liver and kidney transplant surgery.
Sasikala, who was removed from the AIADMK last month after the party factions led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami and now Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam respectively united, was with Natarajan at the hospital for about two hours, sources said, adding that a tight security cover was put in place at the hospital in view of her visit.
Sasikala was accompanied by her relatives during her visit to the hospital, they said. Later, she returned to her niece Krishnapriya's residence in the city. The beleaguered AIADMK leader's car briefly halted in front of a Ganesha temple in Kotturpuram, where she prayed from inside the vehicle as used to be done by late party supremo J Jayalalithaa.
Sasikala's low-profile visit to the hospital was in stark contrast to her public appearances prior to her incarceration in February.Before being imprisoned, she used to be surrounded by partymen and loyalists raising slogans praising her as "chinnamma".
Though AIADMK workers had gathered in good numbers at the hospital as well as at her niece's residence with banners hailing her "homecoming", the level of exuberance was comparatively low.
Senior AIADMK leader and a T T V Dhinakaran loyalist, Nanjil Sampath, said he met Sasikala at the hospital and told her to pray.He said he asked Sasikala to recite the 'Sundara Kandam' from the Ramayana as it would bring her relief.
He said steps would be taken to seek an extension of Sasikala's parole since she could not interact with Natarajan as the latter had undergone tracheostomy and could not verbally communicate because of that. V Maithreyan, a Rajya Sabha MP of the ruling camp, while replying to a reporter's question, ruled out any political change due to the visit of Sasikala as the "MLAs and people" were "very clear" (that she should not be in the AIADMK).
Private security personnel, including several bouncers and some plainclothesmen, could be seen in and around the T Nagar residence of Sasikala's niece. A police patrol vehicle was also stationed in the vicinity.
Sasikala has been lodged in the Parapana Agrahara central jail in Bengaluru since February after the Supreme Court upheld her conviction by a special court in a disproportionate assets case.
Her relatives, Ilavarasi and V N Sudhakaran, are also serving four-year jail terms in the case. Due to the tough parole conditions, Sasikala refrained from interacting with the partymen during her visit to the hospital.
The hospital, meanwhile, said in a statement that Natarajan (74) was recovering and that he was "awake and oriented and on ventilator support through tracheostomy, which was performed on October 6".
Natarajan was admitted at the liver intensive care unit of the Gleneagles Global Health City under the care of a team of doctors led by Professor Mohamed Rela, the hospital said. It said at the time of admission, he had a "worsening liver failure, kidney failure and lung congestion, and subsequently, he underwent a liver and kidney transplantation on October 4". In a statement, Director, Institute of Liver Disease and Transplantation of the hospital, Dr K Ilankumaran said considering Natarajan's age and the associated co-morbidities, his condition was stable during the surgery and that he was "recovering well in the liver intensive care unit".
"He (Natarajan) is awake and oriented and on ventilator support through tracheostomy, which was performed on October 6," he added. As in any other combined liver and kidney transplant surgery, Natarajan's condition would be critical for the next few days, Ilankumaran said, adding, "He is under close observation and monitoring."
It may be recalled that Sasikala had sought parole for 15 days, but was only granted five days with tough conditions, including that she would not get involved in any political, party-related or other public activities. She is only allowed to visit the hospital where her husband is admitted and stay at the residence of her relative as mentioned in her parole application.
Sasikala has also been restricted from interacting with the media.