'One can be soft and still take tough decisions'

'One can be soft and still take tough decisions'

Sabita Indra Reddy is a politician by accident but her appointment as the first ever woman home minister in the country was deliberate. Her promotion as No 2 in the Cabinet by her ‘Anna’ as she calls Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, surprised her as much as it shocked patriarchal males who wondered if a woman can do justice to the post. The CM’s decision was prompted as much by his belief that Sabita ‘chellemma’ (younger sister) was his lucky mascot as his assessment that she’s a capable administrator.

Sabita came into politics in 2002 to take on the mantle of her husband P Indra Reddy, a former home minister, after he died in a road accident. Since then she has won three elections and emerged as a leader in her own right. A graduate, the tall, slim, mother of three sons, Sabita (46) is simple and soft-spoken. She spoke to R Akhileshwari of Deccan Herald on her transformation from a housewife into one of the most powerful politicians in the state. Excerpts:

On making history as first woman home minister:

It is no credit to me but to all women. By reposing confidence in a woman, the chief minister has publicly declared his confidence in the ability of women. He has pulled us women several notches up.

On doubts being expressed whether a woman can manage a crucial but difficult ministry like home:

I agree everyone is having doubts. My job indeed involves walking on a razor’s edge.

Terrorism and Naxalism are national issues and are a great concern for us in Andhra Pradesh. But I am heading the best police department in the country and no one need have fears on the security front.

When women have successfully managed many public offices, why this doubt? Look how Sonia (Gandhi) has proved every man wrong! I believe even we (women) are not aware of this potential in us. Every woman has it in her to be successful. We need only the opportunity to prove ourselves.

On her being soft-spoken and too mild to handle the home ministry:

One does not have to be harsh sounding, teeth-gnashing person to take tough decisions. If the situation warrants I will be tough and non-compromising. Women may be soft in appearance and speech but we are tough mentally. There’s no question that a woman cannot deliver in toughest of situations.

On the priorities before her:

We are setting up the state’s own force on the lines of National Security Guards (NSG) to deal with terrorism. As for Naxalism, it is under control to a great extent. Our government is focusing on development and in channelising energies of the youth. I firmly believe if the government does its work, social problems like Naxalism will not arise.

On giving special attention to women’s issues:

Half of the issues that police department deals with are women-oriented. As a woman I am concerned at the rising tide of violence against women.

I plan to meet women activists, NGOs and community leaders to find ways of addressing these problems and reaching help to distressed women apart from giving them a sense of confidence.

We can perhaps look at setting up citizens committees in communally sensitive neighbourhoods. When every citizen takes responsibility, becomes a guardian of peace like the police then several social problems will be resolved. Then every small issue won’t be taken to the police station and the department will be free to focus on security.

On her reaction to the 360 degree turn in her life:

Even in my dreams I didn’t think I will reach such heights. I keep asking myself if this is the same Sabita that was once confined to the four walls of my house as a wife and mother? This Sabita is different from Indra Reddy’s Sabita! I have asked myself not once but hundreds of times, is this me?

I was an ordinary woman, terrified on stage, terrified of microphones. But today I am totally different. I believe all of us have the power in us, another ‘shakti’ really. There’s another person in everyone who comes out and proves herself if given an opportunity.

We only have to discover it to discover our true self, our true potential.