Cheppudira Muthanna Poonacha was born on 16 September 1910 in South Coorg’s Athoor village located in present day Karnataka. He completed his schooling from Madikeri and Virajpet in Coorg. He began his undergraduate studies at St. Aloysius College, Mangalore but left mid-way to join the Indian freedom movement.
Role in India’s Independence Movement
Poonacha’s involvement in the freedom struggle landed him in jail on multiple occasions. During the Salt Satyagraha movement he went to prison twice – in 1932 and 1933. For his decision to take part in the Gandhi-led Individual Satyagraha movement, he was detained for a year from 1940 to 1941. The Quit India movement that began the following year saw him return to jail, where he remained detained until 1944
A year later, Poonacha was elected to the Coorg Legislative Council and remained a member until 1951. Throughout his term, he was also the leader of the Congress in the Council.
Poonacha occupied important party positions within the Congress. His first official post within the Party was that of the Secretary of the Coorg District Congress Committee, which he served from 1934 to 1938. The year he completed his term as the Secretary, Poonacha simultaneously became the member of both the Executive Committee of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee and the All-India Congress Committee. Again in 1938, he was elected to the Coorg District Board and soon turned Board President in 1941.
Contribution to Constitution Making
Poonacha was Coorg’s sole representative in the Constituent Assembly. He was elected on a Congress Party ticket. He did not actively participate in the Assembly proceedings.
After independence, a new Coorg Legislative Assembly was created. The first and last election to this Assembly was held in 1952. Poonacha was elected to the Assembly on the back of a campaign that supported Coorg’s merger with Mysore State. Poonacha’s Congress won a majority, and he became Coorg’s first, and last, Chief Minister.
In 1956, Coorg merged with the State of Mysore. The following year, Poonacha stood for the elections to the Mysore Legislative Assembly, and won from the Madikeri constituency. He became a part of the new State cabinet and was appointed the Minister for Industries and Commerce in 1956. Later, he took up the Home and Industries portfolio. He also held the post of Chairman of the State Trading Corporation of India between 1959-63.
In 1964, he became a Rajya Sabha member. In the years that followed he held a number of posts in the Union Executive that included Minister of State for Finance (1966), the Minister of State for Transport, Aviation, Shipping and Tourism (1966-1967), the Union Minister of Railways (1967-69) and the Union Minister for Steel and Heavy Engineering (1969-71).
Towards the end of his career, Poonacha was appointed as the Governor of Madhya Pradesh (1978-80) and Orissa (1982-83).
Poonacha passed away on 17 August 1983.
- Poonacha intervened in the Assembly to establish a sub-committee to look into the future of administration in the Chief Commissioner’s Provinces (later re-named Union Territories) in a newly independent India.