The senior-most politician to visit Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in hospital so far has been Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Interestingly, none of the senior political leaders in Tamil Nadu had gone to see her in hospital till Saturday.
Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader Vaiko went to see Amma in hospital on Saturday as did Communist Party of India (Marxist) state Secretary G Ramakrishnan.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Karunanidhi had earlier openly called for the release of photos or a video footage of Jayalalithaa to prove that she is indeed on the road to recovery.
Supporters of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader have been praying for her speedy recovery and numerous pujas are constantly being held in temples and other places across the state. Crowds also throng Apollo Hospitals in Chennai where Amma has been admitted since September 22. But there are a few pertinent questions that remain to be answered.
Amma's road to recovery
The Tamil Nadu chief minister has been in Apollo Hospitals since September 22. There have been daily updates over the last few days, but not too much information has been divulged. The last statement released on October 7 stated that she was on "continued respiratory support, nebulisation, drugs to decongest the lungs, antibiotics, nutrition, general nursing care and supportive therapy." She has been examined by Dr Richard Beale from London and a series of experts from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), including Department of Pulmonary Medicine Professor Dr G Khilnani, Department of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care Professor Dr Anjan Trikha and Department of Cardiology Professor Dr Nitish Naik.
Despite the fact that people are being told that she has been recovering well, it is clear that she requires a longer period of stay in hospital. How long and what next steps for her recovery are unclear at this point and no one is divulging any information in this regard.
Governance of Tamil Nadu
With Jayalalithaa in hospital, the administrative duties of the state are being reportedly helmed by Sheela Balakrishnan. While this may work as a short-term arrangement, it doesn't look feasible or practical in the long-run. But politicians like Subramanian Swamy are already clamouring for President's Rule. DMK treasurer M K Stalin has also called for an interim or Deputy CM to be appointed while Amma is recovering.
All eyes are now on acting Tamil Nadu Governor C Vidyasagar Rao to see what steps he might take in this regard. Some senior ministers met the Governor on Friday and there is speculation that an interim CM will be appointed.
Meanwhile, Amma's political allies have rubbished the need for an interim CM. On Saturday, MDMK leader Vaiko asked whether an interim CM was sought when DMK leader M Karunanidhi was hospitalised for 45 days in 2001.
When Jayalalithaa was convicted in the disproportionate assets case, it was O Panneerselvam who stepped in as CM as he had in 2001 as well. This time around, it could be someone else. When and if the decision to bring in the interim CM will be taken and implemented is the big question.
Who next in the AIADMK?
Given the fact that Jayalalithaa is unable to carry out her duties at this point due to hospitalisation, there have been murmurs as to who will helm the party in future. The AIADMK leader till date has not appointed a successor in the party as there has not been a need. But given the current scenario, this position becomes important and it could lead to divisions in the party with numerous people wanting to fill those shoes. Many of Amma's staunch supporters would not like to think of a successor nor possibly think anyone worthy enough for the position. However, the future of the party and its role in state politics depends on this decision as well.