Strong tribal roots to make things easy for Wayanad leader

Mananthavady has always been the centre of Kelu’s social and political life since he was born and brought up there.
Father Raman, wife Santha and daughters Bhavana and Midhuna celebrating at the house of minister-designate O R Kelu in Wayanad
Father Raman, wife Santha and daughters Bhavana and Midhuna celebrating at the house of minister-designate O R Kelu in Wayanad Photo| Express

KALPETTA: Mananthavady MLA O R Kelu’s elevation as a minister in the LDF government marks a significant moment for Wayanad, especially Mananthavady which has a significant population of tribal people. The new post of SC/ST welfare minister will help Kelu, who belongs to the tribal community, strive for the betterment of the marginalised sections. For Kelu, the new assignment brings challenges but his deep roots in a predominantly tribal constituency will help him handle the issues facing the community with ease.

Mananthavady has always been the centre of Kelu’s social and political life since he was born and brought up there. He is a seasoned farmer, has worked with plantation labourers, and entered the political arena through the Scheduled Tribe welfare movements and farmer unions. Kelu was born on August 2, 1970, in Olanchery, near Thrissilery, 10 km away from Mananthavady town, to farmer Raman and Ammu. He belongs to the Kurichiya tribe. He is also the first CPM minister from Wayanad. Though agriculture was the main occupation of his family for decades, he had also worked as a labourer in Payyampally Estate, a power-loom company, and Mananthavady Pazhassi Park.

He was elected as a panchayat member in 2000 from Edayoorkunnu ward of Thirunelli grama panchayat. Later he served as the president of Thirunelli panchayat for 10 years from 2005 to 2015. In 2015, he was elected as a member of Mananthavady block panchayat from Thirunelli division. He has been an active leader of the CPM-led Adivasi Kshema Samithi having worked as its Mananthavady area secretary, state president and so on.

In the 2016 assembly elections, he defeated P K Jayalakshmi, former Congress minister, and was elected as Mananthavady MLA. He repeated the victory in the next assembly election also. He first defeated Jayalakshmi by 1,307 votes, but in the second election in 2021, his vote margin increased to over 9,282. Kelu has worked as CPM Wayanad district committee member and became the first Scheduled Tribe leader from Wayanad to be elected to the CPM state committee in 2022.

Political impact

Kelu has been serving in Adivasi Adhikar Rastriya Manch All India Committee, working as chairman of the legislative committee on Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and Member of Board of Management of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Science University. Kelu, who has been able to create a political impact in Wayanad at the grassroots level, has now got an opportunity to widen his political career as a minister.

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