Chennai, June 18: The "death list" of 105 put out by former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa as martyrs who either committed suicide or died of shock because she had lost the recent Assembly elections was "highly inflated", informed sources said.

"She was running the list as some sort of a game score card, even several days after the poll results. The figure is highly inflated. A hardcore loyalist wanting to end his or her life over the electoral setback would have done so immediately after the verdict on May 11, whereas Amma announced her last death list on June 1. Her statement, claiming that 105 party members had died, was carried in the AIADMK organ Namadhu MGR the following day," said a party functionary in southern Tamil Nadu. For obvious reasons, he did not want to be named.

For instance, he said, the June 1 list included one Abdul Raheem of Mandapam near Rameswaram as having died "due to shock" following the electoral defeat. An investigation by this newspaper revealed that Raheem, aged 85, was suffering from asthma for several years and died on May 30 after an asthma attack. So how did he get into Ms Jayalalithaa’s list?

It appears that Raheem’s son Mohamed Yousuf is the AIADMK town secretary at Mandapam, and close to Ramanathapuram party secretary Murugesan. "Nothing more need be said," added the AIADMK functionary, expressing dismay over the state of affairs in his party.

Interestingly, on the same day that Raheem died of asthma, a hardcore Jayalalithaa loyalist jumped before a bus and killed himself at Mandapam. Fisherman Odayanathan had been going around sobbing about her defeat and on that fateful day he gulped a few drinks before killing himself under a speeding bus. But then Odaya had no influential friends in the party and so his name did not figure in the former chief minister’s list of martyrs. Upset over this, the party’s local fishermen’s association petitioned Mr Murugesan about the injustice done to Odaya’s family.

Party sources say that there were several instances similar to that of Raheem and Odaya. The martyrs’ list has also elevated some cases of death due to alcohol-induced depression. For instance, K. Kaliappan of Foreshore Estate in Chennai was a peddler of country brew and himself a drunkard. Released from Vellore jail a couple of years ago after serving a term for murder, he was living alone after the family walked out on him due to his violent ways. In a fit of depression during the third week of May, he got drunk and set himself ablaze. He died in hospital, and the AIADMK symbol tattooed on his forearm got him into the martyrs’ list.

Such suicides as an expression of loyalty for leaders suffering either electoral setback, ill health or death have been very common in Tamil society for ages — the most recent instances were witnessed during the death of the DMK founder C.N. Annadurai, when matinee idol and AIADMK leader M.G. Ramachandran fell ill and later passed away, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated and DMK president M. Karunanidhi lost the elections.

There have been some genuine "martyrdom" cases too, such as G. Vasanthi of Vyasarpadi, a Chennai suburb. The middle-aged woman was an AIADMK member and her husband was the local secretary of the MGR manram. The day after the poll results were announced, she addressed a letter to Ms Jayalalithaa sharing her grief and offering her own life as if to console the party chief in her moment of sorrow. She then doused herself in kerosene and struck a match!