Two-time Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was admitted to a private hospital at Neyyattinkara on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram on the evening of Monday, 6 February, amid speculations over the efficacy of the treatment being provided to him.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan contacted his family and told them that the government would do its best to ensure better treatment for the longest-serving member of the state legislature.
Health minister Veena George is expected to visit Oommen Chandy at the hospital on Tuesday to review the availability of treatments there.
This comes amid 42 close relatives of Oommen Chandy, including one of his brothers, accusing the wife and children of the veteran Congress leader of preferring faith healing to modern medicine to treat his throat cancer.
Oommen Chandy himself appeared in a late-night video message on social media platforms on Sunday to term the allegations as rubbish.
His politician son Chandy Oommen termed the allegations as cruel and devoid of facts.
However, the issue is snowballing into a major controversy — one that ideally requires intervention from not just the Congress high command but also the ruling LDF government.
The allegations and rebuttal
Complicating matters, the relatives have emailed Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, with Health Minister Veena George in the loop, seeking steps to ensure the ailing leader receives scientific treatment under the supervision of reputed doctors.
Despite being political opponents, Vijayan and Chandy maintain a cordial relationship, and the government has told the relatives to abandon their confrontational approach and reach a decision by winning the confidence of the immediate family.
Senior Congress leader AK Antony, who visited Chandy at his Thiruvananthapuram residence on Monday morning, told reporters to avoid speculation and protect the privacy and rights of the Oommen Chandy, one of the true mass leaders in the state who remained active till recently.
Son Chandy Oommen told reporters that the immediate family was ensuring the best available treatment for his father, and there was no truth in the allegation that faith healing was imposed instead of modern medicine.
He said his father was still under the medication prescribed by noted Bengaluru-based cancer expert Dr Vishal Rao, and would be taken back very soon to his hospital.
Rao presides over the continuing treatment of Chandy as directed by a German hospital, where he recently underwent throat surgery.
“It’s painful that my mother and sisters are being dragged into such an unnecessary controversy. People are willfully twisting facts and fabricating stories,” he said.
Alex V Chandy speaks up
Meanwhile, Oommen Chandy’s younger brother Alex V Chandy told reporters in Kottayam on Monday morning that he would continue to stick to what he conveyed to the chief minister and health minister.
“They may have consulted modern doctors, and the doctors may have suggested medicines. But the medicines are not being given to him for consumption as prescribed. Instead, they are giving him turmeric water and some heady ayurvedic concoctions,” alleged Alex.
According to him, the cancer was now in its early stages and could be cured fully by availing of the best in modern medicine.
Alex accused Oommen Chandy’s wife and eldest daughter of preferring faith healing and Chandy Oommen of agreeing to whatever they said when it came to his father’s health.
Alex said only Oommen Chandy’s second daughter Achu preferred modern medicine.
According to him, those who follow faith healing would not allow the patients to take medicines and instead wait for the almighty to act.
In the case of Chandy, known for his administrative and organisational skills and ability to attract the masses, the symptoms of throat cancer were found in 2015 when he was in the last leg of his second term as chief minister.
His voice level dropped, but he ignored the changes.
Last year, Rahul Gandhi learned about his failing health during the Bharat Jodo Yatra from Chandy Oommen, who also participated in the yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, and facilitated a medical check-up in Germany.
After undergoing surgery there, Oommen Chandy was advised to continue the treatment in Bengaluru.
When he regained his voice, the hospital in Bengaluru advised him to go home and continue the medicines.
Now, relatives believe that Oommen Chandy skipped the periodic consultations in Bengaluru and started avoiding medicines under pressure from his wife and children.
As a result, they say, he is losing the voice he had regained.
The current situation
The 78-year-old Oommen Chandy is the longest-serving member of the Kerala Assembly and completed 53 years in that position.
He never lost an election since 1970, and always represented the Puthupally constituency in the Kottayam district.
In the meantime, several senior Congress leaders in the state have approached the party high command seeking its intervention to ensure Chandy’s follow-up medical treatment in Bengaluru.
They say the relatives brought the issue before Vijayan and his government, and any government intervention would complicate the situation.
Last week, Congress workers in Puthuppally attempted to hold an indefinite protest before the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Kottayam, alleging denial of timely medical treatment to him. However, leaders dissuaded them.
Fellow party leaders saw Chandy for the last time at the wedding reception of party colleague Ramesh Chennithala’s son, and they recalled that they saw a fragile man.
The relatives said the immediate family of Chandy were fully engrossed in faith healing, and they even refused to take the Covid-19 vaccine.
According to Alex, the immediate family was against modern medicines.
Instead, they tried almost all alternative medicines over the last several years.
Alex also said it was a shame for the state that a former chief minister was not being treated with modern medicines while his condition remained chronic.
Senior Congress leaders contacted by South First refused to comment publicly, saying that it would further vitiate the situation.
They said they had limitations as Chandy denied the allegations levelled by his relatives.
“Treatment is a matter of privacy, and we must respect what the concerned person and his family say about that,” said a senior leader.
“We have opened different channels to convince the family of the need to shift him to the Bengaluru hospital quickly. The issue would be solved soon,” added the leader.