March 23, 1979, Forty Years Ago: JP Battles
Jayaprakash Narayan continued to wage a grim battle for survival. His condition continued to be “critical” after the termination of the six-hour dialysis at Jaslok Hospital, Bombay, where he was admitted on Monday. A hospital bulletin said there has been a “slight improvement” in his condition, which was still critical. Medical tests had shown that the treatment had encouraging results in maintaining the heart beat. His blood pressure was normal and there were a few extra heart beats. A fresh complication reported in his condition was that his body was rejecting the blood being administered to him. JP was put on dialysis amidst the unfortunate news of his supposed death.
Prime Minister Morarji Desai tendered an unqualified apology to Parliament and the nation for having mistakenly informed the Lok Sabha that Jayaprakash Narayan was dead. The speaker, K S Hegde, also expressed “deep regret” for making the announcement in the morning session of the House, which was flashed by the news media and led the the world to believe for an hour that JP was dead. The morning session was adjourned after glowing obituary references to a living man. As the mistake became known, the House was reconvened to rectify the error.
Thousands of people flocked to Jaslok Hospital as soon as news of Jayaprakash Narayan’s death was announced by All India Radio. There was relief when they discovered that there was no truth in the news but the relief soon turned to wrath that such a mistake could be made and the unruly crowd stormed the hospital under the mistaken notion that the hospital authorities were to blame. The Janata Party functionaries in Bombay were visibly upset and anguished. They were unable to explain why even ordinary precautions to get the news confirmed from the hospital were not taken before announcing it in the Lok Sabha.