"We used to go to hospital but were only briefed by Chairman Prathap Reddy. The Tamil Nadu health secretary, who used to be in hospital round the clock briefed us too," Mr Manian said on being asked if he had seen Ms Jayalalithaa in hospital.
Ms Jayalalithaa was not seen in public after she was admitted in hospital in September last year. She died on December 5 after a cardiac arrest.
Mr Manian makes it two state ministers now who have admitted that they did not see Ms Jayalalithaa, also their powerful party leader, in the weeks before her death at the Apollo hospital. Earlier this week Forest Minister Dindigul Srinivasan apologised for party leaders having made claims like they saw "Amma eating idlis" at the hospital in all-is-well reports, even as opposition parties demanded to know how seriously ill Ms Jayalalithaa actually was.
Then yesterday, another minister, Sellur Raju, said he had and other colleagues had met Ms Jayalalithaa, contradicting Mr Srinivasan, who claimed that party leaders lied because they were afraid of VK Sasikala, Ms Jayalalithaa's long-time aide, who took control of the party after her death.
"Sasikala and her family would tell us she (Jayalalithaa) ate idli, had coffee, was given sweets, did that and this... we told what she (Sasikala) said... The truth is that nobody saw her... Even high-profile dignitaries including Amit Shah and Rahul Gandhi did not visit Jayalalithaa, but only met the hospital chairman," Mr Srinivasan said.
Ms Sasikala, who is now in jail in a corruption case, was recently evicted from the party along with her nephew Dhinakaran, but they are fighting back against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswami, who has joined hands with senior leader O Panneerselvam, now his deputy after their factions of the AIADMK merged.
Mr Palaniswami has announced that a retired judge will investigate the circumstances of Ms Jayalalithaa's stay in hospital and death and top AIADMK leader M Thambidurai yesterday distanced himself from the differing statements of ministers saying, "I don't want to go into the details now. The commission will get into this," when asked if he had seen Ms Jayayalithaa in the hospital.
"The judicial commission has been appointed to prevent suspicion of Jayalalithaa's death and it is a welcome decision," said Mr Thambidurai, who is a senior parliamentarian.
The camp supporting Ms Sasikala has claimed that she had taken a mobile video of Jayalalithaa in hospital but it couldn't be shared because the former Chief Minister was "in a nightie". They have demanded that a sitting judge conduct the Jayalalithaa investigation.