Prayers, some silent, some whispered, others loud, were rendered by the cadre that waited outside Kauvery Hospital in Alwarpet, as the state of DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi’s health waxed and waned on Sunday.
Since the morning, DMK party workers thronged the hospital for updates on the health of their leader as a flurry of VIP visitors including PMK founder S. Ramadoss, former finance minister P. Chidambaram and Odisha MP Baijayant Panda trooped in to enquire about his condition. At a quarter past seven in the evening, as news about a setback to Mr. Karunanidhi’s health began to spread, the crowd began to swell outside the hospital. Many began cheering loudly, wishing him a speedy recovery. Some turned restless. They refused to budge even when a surprise shower drenched them, and continued to raise slogans. Quickly, a battalion of police personnel marched in and formed a protective barrier between the cadres, the media and visitors to the hospital.
Around 9 p.m., the crowd got agitated and many started wailing as news spread that their leader’s health had deteriorated further.
Former Mayor Ma. Subramanian and former DMK Ministers K. Anbazhagan and Poongothai Aladi Aruna rushed into the hospital. By this time, the police decided to lock the gate and allow entry only to media personnel, VIPs and family members.
R. Rajathi, a party worker from Saidapet, said, “They can prevent us from entering, but none can stop us from praying for him from outside. We are sure he will recover soon.”
By half past 10, policemen had to literally push away the crowd to make way for family members leaving the hospital. Around 11 p.m., family members, including Mr. Karunanidhi’s sons M.K. Stalin and M.K.Alagiri, left the hospital. However, party cadre continued to mill about, refusing to retire for the night. Crowds were also seen outside Mr. Karunanidhi’s residence in Gopalapuram.
Many in the crowd on Sunday were DMK MLAs who found themselves rubbing shoulders with commoners owing to restrictions imposed by the police on visitors to the hospital.
DMK legislators S. Austin (Kanniyakumari), U. Mathivanan (Kilvelur) and K.S. Masthan (Gingee) were seen arguing with the police after being denied entry to the hospital. Mr. Mathivanan was allowed entry after much resistance.
There were several other instances of party functionaries getting into arguments with the police.
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