Crowds Gather After Tamil Nadu Leader Suffers Cardiac Arrest

FILE PHOTO - J. Jayalalithaa, leader of Anna Dravida Munetra Khazhgam (AIADMK) flashes a victory sign toward her supporters from the balcony of her residence after winning state election in the southern Indian city of Chennai May 13, 2011. REUTERS/Babu/File Photo

CHENNAI, India, Dec 5 – The life of the leader of India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu hung in the balance on Monday after she went into cardiac arrest, drawing large crowds to the hospital where doctors were fighting to save the hugely popular former actress.

Jayalalithaa Jayaraman went into cardiac arrest on Sunday night, the Apollo Hospital in the state capital Chennai said, her condition deteriorating sharply after her admission with a severe respiratory ailment in September.

Popularly known as “Amma”, or “Mother” in Tamil, the 68-year-old former film actress was introduced into politics by her screen partner M.G. Ramachandran and went on to serve as chief minister of Tamil Nadu five times.

Jayalalithaa remains hugely popular despite being jailed more than once for corruption. She has no obvious successor – during her latest illness her picture was put in the chair at the head of the table at state cabinet meetings.

Police were deployed in large numbers in case emotional crowds of devoted supporters reacted strongly to further developments. Supporters have been known to commit suicide in the past in reaction to bad news.

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