Tribute Pour in Dead Tamil Nadu Political Icon, Former Film Star Jayalalithaa

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NEW DELHI – Tamil Nadu’s chief minister and one of the country’s most popular political leaders, J. Jayalalithaa, 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 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.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences over her demise.

Her political party, AIADMK, on Twitter said:

Leaders across party lines and from across the country tweeted their condolences.

Jayalalithaa had earned the loyalty of many voters in the state with a series of highly populist schemes, including “Amma canteens” that provided lunch for just three rupees (five cents).

She was also one of the country’s most polarising politicians, accused of being dictatorial and was even jailed for corruption.

Thousands of directors, actors and producers in the successful Tamil language film industry went on hunger strike to demand her release.