POLITICS

Why Actor Gautami's Open Letter To PM Modi On Jayalalithaa's Death Has Backfired Badly

Ironic.

11/12/2016 7:48 AM IST | Updated 11/12/2016 8:33 AM IST
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Sasikala Natarajan next to Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's body in Chennai, on 6 December 2016. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Just why did actor Gautami Tadimalla suddenly jump in to raise questions about the circumstances surrounding J Jayalalithaa's demise?

Gautami has so far not shown any political inclination, so it seemed rather strange that she should choose to question someone like Sasikala Natarajan who was presumably the person doing the gatekeeping at Apollo Hospitals, controlling access to the chief minister.

On Thursday, Gautami wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on her blog, raising several questions. These included:

1. Why was there secrecy and isolation of a beloved public leader and head of the Tamil Nadu government?

2. Whose authority restricted access to the late chief minister?

3. Who were the persons making the decisions about Jayalalithaa's treatment when her health was in this delicate state?

4. Who is responsible for answering these questions to the people?

Another reason why Gautami's letter is surprising is because celebrated actor Kamal Haasan, who was Gautami's live-in partner till November, did not share a particularly good relationship with Jayalalithaa.

AFP/Getty Images
Kamal Haasan (R), with actress Gautami (C) and her daughter Subbulakshmi.

Kamal suspected an AIADMK hand in the trouble that seemed to have been choreographed around the release of his film Vishwaroopam in 2013. Jayalalithaa had denied that. Kamal's condolence message on Twitter after Jayalalithaa's demise was terse, though he had asked his fans not to celebrate his birthday in November because the CM was hospitalised.

Gautami has maintained that she has asked these questions as a responsible individual but doubts arise if she is batting for a political party looking to target Sasikala. Gautami has denied any political motive in putting out the open letter.

Highly placed sources at Apollo Hospitals point out that Gautami's self-righteousness is rather surprising and ironic.

But the fact is Gautami's queries are following allegations made by expelled AIADMK MP Sasikala Pushpa. On Monday, Pushpa had claimed lack of transparency in information about Jayalalithaa's health and said that Apollo Hospital's medical bulletins were being trusted blindly. The suspicion is that someone is using Pushpa and Gautami to target Sasikala Natarajan.

Gautami's missive has provoked anger among AIADMK supporters, who see this as unnecessary interference. Actor-turned-politician Sarath Kumar who is a Jayalalithaa supporter has taken on Gautami, without naming her, in an open letter to Modi as well. In it, Sarath Kumar has called these allegations "baseless" that "demean the character of all of us in the state".

Sarath Kumar points out that neither the Tamil Nadu Governor nor Union ministers who visited the hospital ever spoke of being denied access. Kumar claims the allegations have belittled the efforts made by the doctors at Apollo Hospitals for 75 days.

AFP/Getty Images
Apollo Hospital, Chennai.

The hospital is also unhappy at being caught in the crossfire between Sasikala and those trying to target her. Highly placed sources at Apollo Hospitals point out that Gautami's self-righteousness is rather surprising and ironic. They say when she got Kamal Haasan admitted to Apollo Hospitals after he suffered a fracture in July this year, she did not reportedly inform Kamal's daughter Shruti Haasan.

The next morning, according to an eyewitness, Shruti stormed into the fourth floor of Apollo Hospitals, furious.

"She literally tore into Gautami, asking her if she needed to know about her father's accident and surgery from Twitter. It was a massive, ugly showdown at the end of which Shruti told Gautami that she will not be in that house any more,'' said a source who witnessed the entire altercation. Gautami announced her separation from Kamal in November, a development that shocked many since they had been living together for over a decade.

Sources at Apollo Hospitals also say that when Gautami underwent surgery for cancer in February 2005, she had specifically requested for privacy and did not want anyone to know she was admitted to the hospital.

Sources at Apollo Hospitals also say that when Gautami underwent surgery for cancer in February 2005, she had specifically requested for privacy and did not want anyone to know she was admitted to the hospital. "We protected her privacy then just like we do with most patients,'' said a source at the hospital.

In the initial days of Jayalalithaa's hospitalisation, DMK chief Karunanidhi had demanded regular and detailed updates on the CM's health condition. PMK chief Dr Ramadoss had asked for video footage of Jayalalithaa inside hospital. Both came in for criticism from people, who argued that while the people of Tamil Nadu had a right to know about their CM's health, Jayalalithaa too had a right to her privacy.

It is not known if Modi has responded to or will reply to Gautami's letter. But inadvertently Gautami has ended up turning the focus on a closed chapter in her life with this open letter.

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