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February 23, 2000


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The Rediff Interview/ Rabri Devi

'My name will be there on the pages of history'

Yesterday: 'I am not subordinate to Lalooji'

The second and concluding part of Sheela Bhatt's interview with Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi.

Did your husband talk to you before making you the CM?

No, never. The party men made me the CM. They told me , ' Chaliye (let's go).' I asked them, 'where am I supposed to go?' They said I have to reach Raj Bhavan for the swearing-in ceremony. I clung to my chair and I refused to go. I asked them 'why should I go?' My party men said they now consider me their neta. I argued that I am only a housewife. I work within my home. I can only look after my children, I can't manage the state. But they dragged me to Raj Bhavan. We are not greedy.

The first time I came out of the confines of my home, it was to become the CM!

Were you happy?

Yes and no. My husband was wrongly charge-sheeted. Even Advani was chargesheeted. Sukh Ram was caught with Rs 40 million, but he remains a sadhu. Nothing incriminating was found in our house, but we are branded as chor. That's painful.

How did you learn to rule?

I have witnessed politics since my marriage. Gossip sessions and debates go on in our home. My ears and eyes are never away from my body, right?

Can you describe your experiences after becoming the CM?

I used to cry in the office. I had fears. My heart used to beat fast. I hated going to unknown people. I was clueless about what to talk. But the officers gave me confidence, teaching me the way things were supposed to be done. For three-four months I used to cry a lot. I had never done any business before. I used to regret the absence of my husband. His presence would have avoided my troubles.

What was your daily routine like?

I am an early riser. I get up at 5 am. I prepare breakfast for myself and my children. I attend to office work around 11 am. I avoid going out to meetings.

How do you manage the files?

There are people who read it out to me. Mukund Prasad (the private secretary) read out the files loudly to me! He would point out the negative and positive aspects of the matters.

But that can put you in trouble. Someone's judgement can go wrong.

If someone tries to fool me, he will also be in trouble. Concerned officers' names are carried in files. The officer would never break the trust, it's just not possible!

Have you understood Bihar?

There is no one to take care of poor Biharis. Since the last ten years the poor people are aware of things. Previously, a poor man was never allowed to sit on the bed in his own house. If the passer-by was from the upper castes he had to sit on the ground. These poor people have blessed us.

How was the taste of power?

Even at this moment I want to give up power. I am telling him (Laloo Yadav) to take away all this things. Give it to anyone. Enough is enough. Saheb wanted me to fight the assembly election but I flatly refused. You see, I am an MLC and I have been allotted Rs 5 million which I will use for the benefit of the people.

I am a woman who was not even ready to step out of the house, and when she stepped out became the CM! I don't talk much. I am serious even with my children.

Don't you feel bad when you see the stark poverty of Bihar?

Bihar is poor but Biharis are not hungry. They somehow manage with their rotis. Whoever has complaints about Bihar, why haven't they come forward to help? Bihar is part of India. Bihar's crime rate is less than that of many states. But because the Centre is not ready to help, our options are limited.

Do you think you are lucky?

(Laughs) I weep because I am forced to go to office. I am not lucky, my husband is lucky.

Have you heard about the Hindi film Abhiman? In it the wife becomes more popular, the couple has ego hassles and then...

You just don't understand me. How can you say such things? I will never do such things. We touch our husband's feet. They are considered God. Everyday I tell him that I am feeling so bad about the developments. I have ruled enough.

But, in reality, Laloo rules...

I am sitting here, where is he? How many times, at how many places can he join me to take decisions? Does the PM read all the files? Everything comes on a typed letter. Lalooji is not following me into the office.

How was your meeting with the prime minister and home minister?

(Pauses) What should I say? The prime minister is not married and runs the affairs of the nation. Advaniji is very intelligent. He has two children. Both are suffering . Is life worth anything? To me, the biggest happiness is the wellbeing of my family. I am handling Bihar. I am also managing my children. I look after my children too well. Our children do listen to us.

There are chances of you losing the power in these elections.

Only the people can defeat us. In the Lok Sabha election Vajpayee defeated us. Although the media serves them, we are not worried about the outcome.

You may have to vacate your official bungalow, after staying there for ten years.

We are not going to beg on the roads. If the public wants, we are ready to go.

Ram Vilas Paswan is one of the likely candidates for your post. What do you think?

I don't want to talk about a dirty man like him. How many times has he got married to upper caste women, don't you know? If he is man enough he should marry a Dalit woman.

Ironically, even if the RJD wins you'll have to make way for your husband. Don't you think that's unfair?

It's one and the same. Whether he becomes CM or me. We are not separate. See, for the next seven generation my name will be there on the pages of history. What else can I ask for? These two years have taken the life out of me. I don't want this chair.

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