Ponmudy | From a history teacher to the DMK strongman of Villupuram

Known for his abrasive language in public platforms, Mr. Ponmudy’s act of gesticulating at Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi, when he staged a walkout from the Assembly went viral on social media platforms

Updated - December 22, 2023 01:22 am IST

Published - December 21, 2023 10:43 pm IST - CHENNAI

K. Ponmudy. File

K. Ponmudy. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

K. Deivasigamani was a college teacher teaching history in Kumbakonam, Villupuram and Gudiyatham government colleges for 18 years before emerging as K. Ponmudy, a DMK strongman in Villupuram district and one of the powerful Ministers in the DMK Cabinets since 1989. In DMK circles and in the Dravidar Kazhagam, he had made his presence felt as a platform speaker, rechristening himself with a Tamil name: Ponmudy. Even in 1989, when he became the Minister for Health in the DMK government, which was elected to power after a gap of 13 years, he was known as K. Deivasigamani alias Ponmudy. Subsequently, he just retained the name Ponmudy.

“He was very active in the students’ wing of the DMK in Annamalai University in Chidambaram. After N. Natarajan, the husband of Sasikalaa, he became the secretary of the students’ unit,” said a close associate of Mr. Ponmudy. When late Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi contested from the Saidapet Assembly constituency in the 1967 elections, Mr. Ponmudy visited the constituency and took active part in the campaign. The election proved to be the turning point in the political history of Tamil Nadu as the DMK was elected to power.

Born to school teacher parents in 1950 in T. Edayar in Villupuram district, Mr. Ponmudy was ideologically very close to the Dravidar Kazhagam and was a member of State vice-president of the Pakutharivarlar Kazhagam. The government rules at that time did not prevent anyone from becoming a member of Pakuthrivalar Kazhagam, though it was against joining a political party. His doctoral thesis is a comparative study of Black Movement in the U.S. and the Dravidian Movement in Tamil Nadu.

Even though he sought tickets to contest from Thirunavalur Assembly constituency in 1980 and 1984 elections, he succeeded only in 1989. “The then district secretary Ginjee Ramachandram was not in favour of allotting the Villupuram Assembly constituency seat to K.P. Palaniappan, a party lawyer and a former MLA. The seat went to Mr. Ponmudy and from then, his growth became unstoppable since he adapted himself to the changing political atmosphere,” said his associate.

Mr. Ponmudy was inducted into the Cabinet headed by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, and as the Health Minister, he became popular as he was the only Minister for Villupuram, Kallakurichi, and Cuddalore districts. Though the government stayed in office for just one and a half years before falling victim to the Article 356 of the Constitution in 1991, the subsequent developments also strengthened his standing in the party.

“After Mr. Vaiko was expelled from the DMK, Mr. Gingee Ramachandran left with him, leaving the space for Mr. Ponmudy to dominate. Villupuram became synonymous with him in the DMK hierarchy. It continued till the party district units were bifurcated and trifurcated to clip the wings and powers of district secretaries,” a party source said.

He held the portfolio of transport in the DMK government between 1996 and 2001. After the DMK came to power in 2006, he was Minister of Higher Education and Mines and Minerals. Mr. Ponmudy changed his constituency from Villupuram, which elected him four times, to Tirukovilur in 2016, after he lost the seat to AIADMK heavyweight C.Ve. Shanmugam. Subsequently, he won from there in the 2016 and 2021 Assembly elections.

Known for his abrasive language in public platforms, Mr. Ponmudy’s act of gesticulating at Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi, when he staged a walkout from the Assembly went viral on social media platforms.

His son and orthopaedician Gautham Sigamani was given a ticket to contest from the Kallakurichi Lok Sabha constituency in 2019. Both father and son were questioned by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case earlier this year. His younger son Ashok Sigamani is a paediatrician and president of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA).

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