CHENNAI: Jayalalithaa Jayaram, the chief minister of south India’s Tamil Nadu state and one of the country’s most popular political leaders, died after a prolonged illness, hospital authorities announced late Monday night.
“It is with indescribable grief, we announce the sad demise of our esteemed honourable chief minister of Tamil Nadu … at 11:30pm (local time) today (December 5),” Chennai’s Apollo Hospital said in a statement released to the media.
Doctors had been treating the 68-year-old former film star, who enjoys an almost god-like status in Tamil Nadu.
Hundreds of devotees have kept a round-the-clock vigil outside the private hospital in the state capital Chennai since she was first admitted in September suffering from a fever. Their numbers have swelled since her condition worsened on Sunday.
Jayalalithaa earned the loyalty of many voters in Tamil Nadu with a series of highly populist schemes, including an “Amma canteen” that provides lunch for just three rupees (five cents).
In 2014 she was briefly forced to step down as chief minister after she was jailed on corruption charges.
Her conviction, later overturned on appeal, sparked mass protests and even some reported suicides.
Thousands of directors, actors and producers in the successful Tamil language film industry went on hunger strike to demand her release.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences over her demise.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodli) December 5, 2016
— Narendra Modi (@narendre_modi) December 5, 2016
You just had to admire her pluck and her tenacity. #Jayalalithaa was a remarkable woman.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) December 5, 2016
#Jayalalithaa Seeply saddened shocked and moved . Such a Dunamic lady and powerful leader . RIP Amma.. vacuum in TN.
— Ranganathan Madhavan (@ActorMadhavan) December 5, 2016
— Siddharth (@Actor_Siddharth) December 5, 2016