Mohammed Ali Shabbir has served as Leader of the Opposition in the Telangana Legislative Council. Born in Telangana’s Kamareddy district, Shabbir has occupied key government positions and has represented his district several times since 1989, when he was elected as the first-ever Minister for Minorities’ Welfare. During his stint as Minister in the Y S Rajasekhara Reddy government, he extended 4% reservation for students from minority communities. As Minister for NRIs, he got 25,000 people from Dubai jail to India.

As a teen he had aspired to become an engineer and politics was never his cup of tea then, Shabbir Ali narrated #KhabarLive and goes down memory lane to share incidents from his childhood, hobbies, writing, and more.

Growing up with politicians…

I was born in 1957 at Machareddy village in Kamareddy district of Telangana State. My father was into politics in Kamareddy district. We had a Congress office in our house and I grew up seeing all Congress leaders visiting our house. During the 1950s, 60s and 70s, due to bad roads, water from nalas and lakes would overflow onto the roads during monsoon, due to which, leaders who could not pass through that road would rest at the Congress office in our house. Even as a child, I got the opportunity of sitting close to established leaders, listen to their conversations, and serve the food prepared at our house to these leaders. I did my Intermediate in Hyderabad; later returned to Kamareddy and did my B.Com.

As an undergraduate student, I was deeply involved in college activities and I was the games secretary. I was very active in Youth Congress and held positions like general secretary, vice president and more. While I was the general secretary of the Youth Congress, Rajiv Gandhi garu gave me an MLA ticket in 1989. I was made a Minister as well in the same year.

An active sportsman…

I used to play a lot of Basketball, Badminton and every other possible, except cricket. Back then, we did not have mobile phones or other technologies. After coming back home from school, I would leave my bag at home and straightaway run to the playgrounds and play till 7-00 pm every day. From football to hockey, we played everything. Even senior citizens would come to cheer us whenever we had matches. They would tell us that if our team wins, they would give us a glass of milk. I actively took part in school and college sports.

Wanted to become an engineer…

I always wanted to become an engineer and go to Saudi. I didn’t get engineering seat and that changed my whole perspective towards life. My friend and I scored 68 per cent. Since I was an OC and my friend was BC, he got a seat in JNTU. Ever since, this thought struck me: Why not include Muslims in BCs? Muslims are considered OC, but when we step out, most of the low-rung daily-wage workers are Muslims. I felt we are losing out on great opportunities because of this reservation system.

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Jailed twice…

Before I secured an MLA ticket, I was in jail for 29 days in 1988. One of the leaders in the Assembly passed a comment alleging Rajiv’s involvement in Indira Gandhi’s death. We, as members of the Youth Congress, about 200 members, trespassed into the Assembly and started protesting. The then Speaker Narayana Rao garu adjourned the House, held a special session, and punished us with 30-day imprisonment. Earlier, I was jailed for 14 days in Kerala for entering Assembly premises. We were 31 members who were taken into custody and I was the A1. We fought a legal battle for 29 days for a bail. From the High Court to division bench of the Supreme Court, we approached everyone.

Later, in Supreme Court, a three-judge bench dismissed our case and we were released on bail on the 29th day. We had elections in 1989 and Rajiv Gandhi was particular about giving MLA ticket and including us in the Cabinet. At the age of 31, I never thought I would become an MLA and a Minister. I consider myself very lucky for what happened then.

Donating blood…

After I was made a Minister in the Channa Reddy government, I was given Wakf board. After the communal riots that took place in Hyderabad then, I was the first Minister to donate blood in Osmania Hospital. Channa Reddy garu liked what I did and he elevated me. He gave four additional portfolios to me: Fisheries, Khadi and Village industries, Sugar and Small-scale industries. Even I was surprised to see many big IAS officers coming to meet me and work with me.

Creating history…

During the Vijay Bhaskar Reddy government, I created history by establishing the Minorities Welfare Department. Those days when I called for review meetings, no principal secretary, general secretary, would attend them, because it was all about minorities; only deputy secretaries and others of that level would attend. I was furious as I felt we were the neglected class. During a social gathering, I asked one of the Revenue Department IAS officers as to why they wouldn’t attend Wakf review meetings. He said, “Wakf board’s income is Rs 99 lakh. I have a department of Rs 2,000 crore, I don’t have time for Wakf board meeting.” Later, I asked the Officer of Education Department on why they wouldn’t attend Urdu Academy review meeting, he said, “Our education budget is Rs 1,400 crore and yours is just Rs 3 lakh budget.” Likewise, we were looked down by all secretaries. I told the then Chief Minister what’s happening with me and suggested to him that we should create a department for minorities. Luckily, the Chief Secretary was present at the meeting and he liked my proposal. He met me over breakfast the next day. In 1992, for the first time, the Minorities Welfare Department was created and Wakf, Haj, Urdu Academy, etc came under one umbrella. I was made the Minister for Minorities’ Welfare — a first in the country. In 1993, we received the first budget for minorities of Rs 3 crore. Now it is Rs 3,000 crore.

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Extending 4% reservations for minority students…

Later, I proposed to add Muslims among BCs. Vijay Bhaskar Reddy garu said okay and in 1994, Muslims, Kapus and 12 other communities were added to BCs. Meanwhile, in 1994 the government included Muslims, Kapus etc in scholarship list. Later, Chandrababu Naidu became the CM and he removed scholarship schemes for Muslims and Kapus. Subsequently, I sought reservation for Muslims. Under GO 33, Muslims were given five per cent reservation. This GO challenged BJP and other governments. A three-bench judge rejected the GO, citing some valid reasons. Under the revised GO, from 5 per cent, we came down to 4 per cent. After appointing various judges and revising and fighting the GO for a long time, the Supreme Court gave a stay order that the 4 per cent reservation will continue until the seven-judge Constitution bench takes a joint decision. With this reservation, our higher education literacy per cent went to 4% from 1%. Simultaneously, secondary education percentage went up from 0.1% to 8%. Many Muslim students who had never dreamt of studying beyond Class X have now become doctors, engineers, civil servants and what not. I’m now called the Champion of 4% Muslim reservation.

Love for writing…

Whenever I get free time, I do a lot of research. I go back and hear my speeches and others’ speeches that inspire me. I pen down all my speeches. I wrote a two-part book of all my speeches. I first wrote it in Urdu, but on the suggestion of a well-wisher, I have written it in English as well.

A happy man with a happy family…

I was married in 1981. I have three children: two daughters and a son. All of them are highly educated. My elder daughter has done her M Pharma and is married to a highly qualified doctor. Next is son. He had a hydro power plant in Himachal. He has now shifted to Hyderabad after he incurred losses in business. My younger daughter did her law in Nalsar. She is a topper of Nalsar University. She broke Nalsar records. All three children have three children each. Every Saturday all nine grand children visit me and spend their weekend with me. I’m a happy man with a happy family.

A helping wife…

My wife is a lot into social service. She loves to help poor children in getting education. People who come to my house for help want to meet my wife first, not me. They know she is going to help them for sure. Especially when it is someone’s wedding, she gifts them whatever she could as per her capacity, from gold to money to a saree. She has a pile of expensive sarees at home, from which she gives to girls who are getting married. She is someone who doesn’t want to go on vacations or expensive holidays; instead, she wants to use that money to help someone. In Kamareddy, whoever dies, be it a Muslim or a Hindu, we give them Rs 5,000 from our trust.

A good chef…

I’m a good chef. In Hyderabad, many chefs are Muslims. They all come to my house seeking suggestions about masalas and others. I personally choose everything for my house. We prefer natural ingredients. From oil to masalas, everything is made at our house. Daal, corn, ginger and such items are purchased from places exclusively known for it.

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Escaping major naxalite blast…

In 1997, I was going to unveil the statue of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. There was a naxalite blast that took place and six people died on the spot. I had a miraculous escape then, despite our vehicle being damaged heavily. I could see body parts hung on trees, some parts lying on ground in a pool of blood. It was a depressing scene. That was a turning point. I felt, God didn’t take my life because he wanted me to do something good to people. Since then I have been serving people in some or the other way. I feel happy when people come to me and tell me how the reservation for minorities helped them in their career. When I was giving a speech in Banswada, a government doctor wanted to speak at the meeting. We gave the mike to him and his speech gave goose bumps to everyone. He said, “My father sells soaps. I have done my MBBS, MD and now I am working as a doctor in a government hospital. It happened only because of YS Rajasekhar Reddy and Shabbir Ali. If not for them, I don’t know what I would be doing in my life. After I heard that Shabbir sahab is coming to Banswada, I applied for a leave and came to this place because I want to thank him for giving me this life.” This was very touching and it is something I can never forget in my life.

Short takes:

  • What are you grateful for: For God, my parents and my voters.
  • How do you deal with anger: I don’t generally get angry with anything. Even if I get, I first speak about it with my wife. My wife always tells me to keep calm and not speak anything when I’m angry.
  • What do you think is essential for a state: Education, hospitals and playgrounds.
  • Hangout with family: I have watched only one film with my wife in my entire married life. When we get free time, I hang out with my family at my house over a good feast.
  • What do you plan to do next: Until my health cooperates with me, I want to help people and extend my help to the health sector.
  • What do you think about the current political scenario in Telangana: I feel really sad looking at the leading party. From MLCs, to MLAs to MPTCs and ZPTCs, they are luring everybody with money. This defection culture is very disappointing. The entire political system has collapsed. We lived with values in our career. The current generation has no value system because of this defection culture.
  • Do you plan an autobiography: I will surely write one after a while.
  • A compliment public give you often: Shabbir is everyone’s leader and Champion of the Muslim reservation. #KhabarLive #hydnews
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A senior journalist having 25 years of experience in national and international publications and media houses across the globe in various positions. A multi-lingual personality with desk multi-tasking skills. He belongs to Hyderabad in India. Ahssanuddin's work is driven by his desire to create clarity, connection, and a shared sense of purpose through the power of the written word. His background as an writer informs his approach to writing. Years of analyzing text and building news means that adapting to a reporting voice, tone, and unique needs comes as second nature.