As news of DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi’s health suffering a fresh setback spread on Monday, party workers and leaders thronged the Kauvery Hospital, bringing traffic to a halt in and around Alwarpet.
The arrival of Dayalu Ammal, Mr. Karunanidhi’s wife, at the hospital strengthened the rumours about the leader’s deteriorating health condition that were already doing the rounds on social media. Ms. Dayalu Ammal herself has been ailing for some time and has been unable to visit Mr. Karunanidhi all these days; hence, her first visit on Monday morning set the alarm bells ringing among the rank and file of the party.
Around 2 p.m., Ms. Dayalu Ammal visited the hospital through the back gate, and after nearly 30 minutes, she left the hospital through the front entrance.
Mr. Karunanidhi’s family members including sons M.K. Stalin, M.K. Alagiri and M.K. Tamilarasu and daughter Kanimozhi also reached the hospital in the morning.
The health of Mr. Karunanidhi, who was admitted to the Kauvery Hospital following a drop in blood pressure in the wee hours of July 28, has see-sawed over the last couple of days. And the health bulletin released by the hospital at around 6.30 p.m. on Monday sent shock waves all around and triggered panic among the cadre.
Even before the bulletin was released, TNCC president Thirunavukkarasar gave an indication of how grim things were when he addressed the media after visiting the ailing leader: “I enquired about DMK president Karunanidhi’s health with his family members today. There has been a small setback in his health condition and it is being treated as of now. Let’s all pray that he gets well soon,” he said.
This set off another wave of cadre who descended in front of the hospital. A group of party workers lit camphor on the road outside the hospital, sat around it and raised slogans “Ezhundhu vaa thalaiva, ezhundhu vaa…Veera Thamizhey ezhundhu vaa!” (Rise, our leader! You brave Tamil, rise and come!)
As the day wore on, DMK cadre spent much of their time scrolling through their phones for any announcement related to the DMK chief. There were also many women in the crowd. “How can we sit at home when our thalaivar is in hospital? We have been coming here all these days. We used to leave at 10 p.m. everyday. But tonight, after seeing his health condition, we are planning to stay here,” R. Arogyam of the party’s Egmore division said. By 9 p.m., the crowd had fully occupied the intersection underneath the Alwarpet flyover.
Traffic was completely blocked on the road outside the hospital, which slowed down vehicular movement towards the Music Academy and towards CIT Colony/MCTM School from the Eldams Road signal.
It was also a tough day for the media as “onlookers” routinely sneaked in through the barricades and mixed with the journalists.
(With inputs from Vivek Narayanan, T.K. Rohit, Deepu Sebastian and Udhav Naig)