SSLC dropout, daily wage worker, now a state minister: O R Kelu's remarkable journey

OR Kelu. Photo: Manorama

Wayanad: For the people of Thirunelli, O R Kelu, who is set to take charge as Minister for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Development, is like a friend, who even as an MLA, was just a call away.

The 54-year-old, an SSLC dropout from the Kurichya tribal community, is quite popular among the masses. Kelu, who was a former president of the village panchayat, was available to them, even to scare away herds of wild elephants that entered settlements.

Kelu never forgot the struggles he endured, both personally and in public life. He started as a humble daily wage labourer at a timber depot before working as a security guard at the Pazhassi Park, at Mananthavadi, under the Department of Social Forestry. Years later, when he was elected as MLA from the north Wayanad constituency, Kelu ensured a multi-faceted expansion of the Park.

Kelu is only the fourth minister from Wayanad and the first for CPM from the district. Socialist leader, the late M P Veerendra Kumar was the first; he held the portfolio of Forests. Veerendra Kumar also was the Union Minister of State for Finance in the Deve Gowda Ministry at the Centre and also served as Labour Minister with cabinet rank in the I K Gujral Ministry. Though Congress leader M Kamalam who represented Wayanad in the legislature was also a minister, she was not a native of the district.

Congress leader K K Ramachandran was the Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, in the A K Antony ministry (1995-1996). Congress leader from Kurichiya tribal community, P K Jayalakshmi was also a minister.

In his maiden electoral battle to state legislature in 2016, Kelu defeated Jayalakshmi by a margin of 1,307 votes. Later in 2021, he increased the margin to 9,282 votes. Kelu is the state committee member of CPM and also the state president of Adivasi Kshema Samithi, the tribal arm of the Left party. When asked about his plans as a minister, Kelu told reporters here, that his prime focus would be the issues faced by the marginalized section of society.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.