Veerapandi S Arumugam has for decades been the face of the DMK in the Salem region. He held the Veerapandi Assembly seat with a vise-like grip, ironically suffering his biggest loss there in the last election he contested.
Inspired by the writings and speeches of the late Chief Minister and DMK founder C N Annadurai and party chief M Karunanidhi, Arumugam plunged into politics when he was 14.
He served as Agriculture Minister when the DMK government was elected in 1996 and 2006, apart from his 1990-91 stint with the same portfolio. His first stint in the Cabinet was in the short-lived DMK government between 1989 and 1990, reaping the reward for not defecting to the much more popular AIADMK, as Minister for Rural development and Local Administration.
Arumugam was among the few non-founding leaders in the DMK, who enjoyed unquestioned respect and stature, holding the key to a section of the voters of the Vanniyar community, to which he belonged.
He also earned praise for courting arrest for the party’s causes. Cause or not, Arumugam, however, was no stranger to controversy and legal battles. His rap sheet ranged from murder charges to the persistent allegations of grabbing prime lands in and around Salem.
He has had an especially tough time ever since he comprehensively lost his seat in his party’s rout in the 2011 Assembly elections.
With his health deteriorating, Arumugam spent a few days at Poolavari, the village of his birth. He was taken to Sri Ramachandra Medical College Hospital in Porur with complaints of breathlessness on November 17. He was shifted to the ICU on November 20, where he passed away.