GUWAHATI: When he was not even a teenager, Rameshwar Teli would sell yam and fern so he could buy bread for snacks.
The Dibrugarh MP in Assam, who has risen from such a humble background, said he was happy that “a simple man like me has been made a minister by our leader Prime Minister Narendra Modi”. He was appointed as the Minister of State in the Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries.
Before joining the BJP, Teli was a local leader of All Assam Tea Tribe Students’ Association (AATTSA). He had won the 2001 and 2006 Assam elections from Duliajan but lost the 2011 polls. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP fielded him from Dibrugarh and he defeated five-time Congress MP Pawan Singh Ghatowar. He drubbed the same candidate again by nearly four lakh votes – the highest margin of victory in Northeast this election.
Despite his meteoric rise in politics, the 48-year-old has remained humble. Whenever he visits his constituency, he eats and sleeps in his parental home, which is a bamboo-made structure with tin roof.
One of his uncles pulls a hand cart to eke out a living while another makes a living by delivering refilled LPG cylinders to the consumers. The third is an auto-rickshaw driver.
“I clearly remember those days when we struggled even for snacks. He was aged around 12 years and I was around ten but we would explore the forests around our Tipling Purana Ghat village in Duliajan to collect yam and fern and sell it off in the local market. We used to earn around 75 paise a day which we would spend in buying bread for snacks,” Guneswar, Teli’s younger brother, said.
He said following the death of their father, who was a driver, Teli had opened a “paan” shop to run the family of five – mother, two brothers and two sisters. Both sisters have been married off since.
“He (Teli) went to a college but did not continue his studies. He joined the AATTSA and later, resigned from it after joining the BJP. Even after becoming an MLA and then an MP, he has remained the same old village boy. When he visits our village, he eats and stays in our home,” Guneswar said.
Teli is still a bachelor while Guneswar is married and has a kid.
“We want him to get married soon. We tell him that we would look for a bride for him. Apparently, he has no problem with his marriage as he says he has to get married. However, the marriage is just not taking place,” Guneswar quipped.