As mystery surrounds Indian leader Jayalalithaa's health, deputy takes over

Jayalalithaa was admitted in Apollo Hospital on 22 September after she complained of fever and dehydration.

A woman walks past a portrait of J. Jayalalithaa, Chief Minister of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, in Chennai March 13, 2012. Reuters

With uncertainty still prevailing over the health condition of J. Jayalalithaa, the Chief Minister of South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam took charge of the portfolios handled by her on 13 October.

The portfolios include: Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service, Indian Forest Service, General Administration, District Revenue Officers, Police and Home.

This is the third time that Panneerselvam is acting as the caretaker chief minister of the state. Prior to this, he stepped into Jayalalithaa's shoes twice, between 2001 and 2014, after she resigned from her post following legal setbacks.

Meanwhile, Jayalalithaa (68), who is being treated for infection in a private hospital in Chennai, has been advised a longer stay and is put on respiratory support. She was hospitalised in Apollo Hospital on 22 September after she complained of fever and dehydration.

However, rumours are flying thick and fast that the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo is extremely ill and there is less chance of recovery.

Doctors have been tight-lipped about her treatment and very little news of her health status is trickling in. On 13 October, PTI reported that the expert team of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the UK-based critical care specialist Dr Richard John Beale, who assisted her treatment a week ago, were called back to the hospital again.

However, earlier the doctors confirmed that she is responding well to treatments. "The treatment plan, including appropriate antibiotics, respiratory support and other allied clinical measures are presently being continued to treat the infection," said a statement released by Apollo Hospitals on 3 October.

As public prayers and wishes poured in from Amma loyalists, politicians and VIP are visiting the hospital in a bid to visit the ailing leader. Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Thirumavalavan visited the hospital to wish the ailing chief minister a speedy recovery. He was followed by the leader of Opposition MK Stalin who met with the doctors to enquire about her health. On 7 October, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi flew down to Chennai to pay a visit to the Jayalalithaa.

Rumours flying thick and fast

However, the ongoing uncertainty and false news of her passing away that recently took the internet by storm triggered frenzy among her party and fan following. Tamil Nadu police have issued a strict warning against those spreading rumours. Chennai police commissioner S George warned those who are spreading rumours of Jayalalithaa's demise by saying that they could be detained under the IT Act.

On 14 October, police arrested two bank employees for spreading rumours about Jayalalithaa's health. According to The Hindu newspaper, an AIADMK member Punitha Devi, who visited the Canara Bank branch, heard the two accused, R. Suresh (51) and L. Ramesh (48), talking about Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in a derogatory manner.

Also on 30 August, the ruling party's IT wing filed a case against Thamizhachi, self-described author, who allegedly posted on Facebook that the AIADMK leader had died.