Tamil Nadu higher education minister K Ponmudi is the second high-profile leader of the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) to come under the Enforcement Directorate (ED) scanner. His house in Chennai and Villupuram, his son’s and daughter’s residences and at least 12 places linked to him are being searched by the ED. The ED swooped into his premises at 7 am on Monday.
The searches are conducted just hours before Chief Minister MK Stalin is scheduled to leave for the opposition meeting at Bengaluru where leaders of at least 24 opposition parties across India will take part. In an interview with The Week, Stalin had indicated his mind to take forward the anti-BJP front ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
“The BJP keeps winning only because the parties opposed to it do not come together. In the Lok Sabha elections, our only target is to bring the BJP down. All the political parties will come together for this. Differences between the Congress and a few regional parties will fade away in due course,” Stalin had said in the interview.
The ED raids at Ponmudi’s place come in the wake of Stalin’s role in uniting the opposition, say sources in the DMK. In fact, Ponmudi was acquitted by the Madras High Court, a week before, in a Disproportionate Assets case and a land grabbing case due to lack of evidence. His son, Gautham Sigamani, who is a Lok Sabha MP from Kallakurichi constituency, was also acquitted in the case.
According to highly-placed sources in the ED, the raids are conducted in a case related to Ponmudi’s stint as Mining minister between 2006-2011, the erstwhile DMK regime under M Karunanidhi. The case was registered in 2012, alleging that Ponmudi had obtained quarry licenses in the name of his son, daughter, relatives and people close to him, when he was the minister of mines and resources. The Madras High Court had recently refused to stay the proceedings in the case which accused the minister of quarrying 2.64 lakh loads of excess red sand, for a plea filed by Sigamani. ED sources also say that the minister and his son have amassed wealth and have huge foreign investments and that there is evidence to prove this.
ED sources also say that they will summon Ponmudi and his son Sigamani for inquiry after the searches. "We can arrest him if he refuses to cooperate with our summons," said an official in ED.
While the ED raids on DMK minister V Senthil Balaji were conducted two days after the Patna meeting, the second raids are happening on the day of the second meeting. However Ponmudi being a DMK veteran, the raids will only unite the DMK ranks and add strength to the anti-BJP sentiments in Tamil Nadu.