‘I had some misgivings about women in politics’
December 27, 2009 00:00
A woman in a high-profile job often needs the support of her family and spouse. What about Pratibha Patil, India’s first female President? Her husband, Devisingh Shekhawat, talks to TSI about his role in her growth as a woman and a politician
Your wife is the First Citizen of the nation. What, in your opinion, lies behind her success?
Pratibhaji has done justice to her role as a woman. Besides, she has acted courageously and in a very clean manner in her political life too. Since she got married into our family, she has upheld Indian traditions and “Rajput prestige”. She has led a simple life and has acted in accordance with the difference that a man and a woman inherit. That is why she deserves the post she got. Politicians who interact with her are impressed by her. The post and the responsibilities have not changed her a bit. Whatever she has achieved is because of her personality. She has written her own fate and has entered the hearts of millions of women.
Was she already in active politics when she got married to you?
Yes, she was already an MLA. Yashwant Rao Chavan gave her a poll ticket for the first time in 1962 from Jalgaon. He was impressed by her simple demeanour. He was her mentor.
And what were you doing then?
I was a lecturer of Chemistry.
So was it awkward marrying her?
Yes, there was some reluctance. I was not ready for the wedding. There was a lot of pressure from the family. But it had to happen, so it happened.
But who pressurised you: your parents or the bride’s side?
I was myself not ready. I regarded politics as a dirty business. There were apprehensions [raised then] about the character of women in politics too.
So, that notion changed.
No, the tussle remained for a while. But I discovered she was a woman of principles. I started supporting her.
And then the awkwardness melted away, did it?
Yes, it did. Her behaviour impressed everyone. Even we offered her an environment that led to her growth. We cooperated with her a lot.
When she was busy with politics, who took care of the family?
There were a few irritants that kept cropping up. But the almighty kept the marriage intact. The differences never increased to the level where it would have hurt the marriage. One of her widowed paternal aunts used to stay with us. She took care of the family.
What are you doing these days?
I run an educational institution. I also worked for a cancer institute. I did my Ph.D from the University of Bombay in 1972. Later, I started an institute for higher studies in Amravati.
You never came into politics.
I had a brief encounter with politics, but I was turned off by the rot that had set in. I was an MLA from Amravati between 1985 and 1990. I was also elected a Mayor for the tenure 1991-92.
Does it hurt that your wife is more popular than you?
No. It is because I am attached to the educational field.