“I don’t want to say whether I visited Jayalalithaa in her hospital ward room,” M Thambidurai, a senior AIADMK parliamentarian and Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, told NDTV.
“My duty at the hospital was only to receive VIPs and to take them to the doctor. Apart from this I didn’t do anything,” he added, distancing himself from the controversy.
The comments reinforce conspiracy theories swirling around Jayalalithaa’s illness and death, which are being investigated by a former judge at the state government’s instance.
“The judicial commission has been appointed to prevent suspicion of Jayalalithaa’s death and it is a welcome decision,”Mr Thambidurai said.
Jayalalithaa was not seen in public after she was admitted in hospital in September. She died on December 5 after a cardiac arrest.
Asked whether he ever saw Jayalalithaa in hospital, Mr Thambidurai said: “I don’t want to go into the details now. The commission will get into this.”
One of his party colleagues, Forest Minister Dindigul C Srinivasan, has set the cat among pigeons by commenting, “Sasikala and her family would tell us she (Jayalalithaa) ate idli, had coffee, was given sweets, did that and this… we told what she (Sasikala) said… The truth is that nobody saw her… Even high-profile dignitaries including Amit Shah and Rahul Gandhi did not visit Jayalalithaa, but only met the hospital chairman.”
Mr Thambidurai, reacting cautiously to that, said: “I don’t want enter into the controversy. I don’t know what made the minister say this.”
The allegations mark the deep divide within the ruling party between the camp supporting VK Sasikala – a close aide of Jayalalithaa who took control of the party after her death – and that against her. Sasikala is currently in a Bengaluru jail for corruption, but her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, sidelined recently by the party, is fighting allegations on her behalf. Yesterday, he claimed that Sasikala had taken a mobile video of Jayalalithaa in hospital but it couldn’t be shared because the former Chief Minister was “in a nightie”.
On Mr Dhinakaran, Mr Thambidurai said: “The party has to be kept intact. I still believe Dhinakaran should join together and work. There is no permanent enemy or friend in politics.”