The walls of her office are adorned with stone-studded framed pictures of gods and goddesses. On the wall behind her chair is a larger-than-life-size painting of her late husband. After attending and making a few phone calls, Sabitha settles to chat.
Her peshi places two white khadi hand towels on the drawers and places a steel tumbler with water on her desk. She wears a lovely Uppada sari this morning.
“Today I had to attend the wedding of my colleague's daughter, so I got dressed in the morning and headed to work after that.”
Sabitha sits back to talk about the un-trodden path. Coming from a non-political family, the B.Sc student learned her first lessons in politics from her husband. “I saw him struggle for the constituency, for the people, and that's how I slowly began to understand politics,” she says.
After her husband's demise it was the people's trust and confidence in her that drew her into politics as a full-time career. She says she wasn't willing to let her husband's hard work go to waste.
Before being sworn in as the Home Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Sabitha was a three-time legislator and served as the Mines and Geology Minister in the earlier government. As Home Minister, she heads the 80,000-strong police force of the State.
Incidentally, her husband, the late P. Indra Reddy, was also the Home Minister in N.T. Rama Rao's cabinet.
But her journey from home to her constituency and travel from one district to the other often drew sniggers and unfavourable comments.
“When people started talking and commenting I decided to prove them wrong,” says the soft-spoken lady. “I heard comments like ‘What will a woman who runs a home do in politics?' They also said, ‘It is not easy for a woman to take up such a responsible post.' While all this was on, our loyalists worked overtime to boost my confidence.
Finally, when I was given Home Minister's portfolio I asked our late Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, ‘Home Ministry to me, will I be able to?' His words, ‘Nenu Unnanu' (I am there), pushed me to take it up as a challenge.”
Sabitha admits she rarely gets time for herself. “Day begins with work and as I retire for the day, I quickly go through the different news channels for updates. I haven't shopped in 11 years. My sister shops for me and gets my saris and blouses ready. The only time I went to a shop in these 11 years is to buy a gift for my daughter-in-law for the first Ugadi in our house,” she smiles.
Her pet dog walks in, sniffs around and disappears into another room. With the lady of the house taking up bigger responsibilities, who takes care of her home and family? Till recently she relied on her parents.
“Right from what is to be cooked to what was to be done at home—everything was handled by my parents. After my elder son's wedding, it is my daughter-in-law. She is running the family and is doing a great job at a young age,” Sabitha says.
What has been the biggest challenge in her career as a Home Minister? “Every day is a new day.
The day that shook all of us was Y.S. Rajasekhar's sudden demise. Atrocities against women trouble me a lot. I want to see a day when every day will be a Women's Day,” says Sabitha.
How do she and her family handle negative talk and rumours? “Negative reports and comments troubled me a lot in the beginning but I slowly learned not to heed to the ‘negative-false' accusations and go about doing my duty,” says Sabitha. “I feel every false accusation is with a motive.”
Finally, when I was given Home Minister's portfolio I asked our late Chief Minister,
Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, ‘Home Ministry
to me, will I be able to?' His words,
‘Nenu Unnanu' (I am there), pushed me
to take it up as a challenge