NEW DELHI, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) — One of India’s most charismatic and popular politicians, Chief Minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu J. Jayalalitha, died at a private hospital in state capital Chennai late Monday night at the age of 68, the hospital announced Tuesday.
The South Indian film star-turned-politician, who had been in a critical condition after suffering a cardiac arrest Sunday evening, passed away at 11.30 p.m. (local time) Monday, the Apollo Hospital where Jayalalitha was being treated for the past four months said in a statement.
Local TV channels showed footage of millions of people in Chennai, who had been standing vigil outside the hospital in Chennai since Sunday, breaking down in tears.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other top politicians took to social media site Twitter to express their condolences. “In her passing away, the nation has lost an icon who was loved and admired by millions,” the Indian president tweeted.
“I will always cherish the innumerable occasions when I had the opportunity to interact with Jayalalithaa ji. May her soul rest in peace. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Tamil Nadu in this hour of grief,” Modi tweeted.
Jayalalitha was first hospitalised in September and her regional ruling AIADMK party had then said it was for dehydration and fever. But it soon became clear that her illness was more serious. She spent weeks on respiratory support, with specialists arriving from London to monitor her.
She has been Tamil Nadu chief minister four times and is revered by many in the state. With the extreme devotion she inspires among her supporters, many of whom refer to her as “Amma” (mother), who had a roller-coaster ride to power.
Experts say there will be a political vaccum in the state, which would be very difficult to fill in though time will be the judge.