Born as well as married into a home of politicians, Dharmavarapu Kottam Aruna, endearingly called ‘Arunamma’, virtually had life cut out for her:  people, their problems; parties; and the rough and tumble of politics. Aruna began small by getting involved in grievance redressal sessions held at her in-laws’ house.

Gradually she won people’s hearts with her padayatras. Then she went on to beat formidable politicos and become a legislator, representing the Gadwal constituency. Becoming a minister was a cinch. She left her mark in all the portfolios she has handled with aplomb: Information & Public Relations as well as Small-scale Industries, Sugar, Khadi & Village Industries. The murders of her father and brother did not deter her from her resolve to serve people, come what may. Today, she is the National Vice President of the party that is heading the NDA government at the Centre.

In a freewheeling conversation with #KhabarLive, Aruna, reveals that, behind her persona as an indefatigable fighter lies memorable moments of fun-filled growing years, her childhood fancy to become a doctor, an accidental entry into politics, influence of family, and more.

Family of politicians…
I spent my entire childhood in Dhanwada village of Narayanpet constituency. It was my father Chittem Narsi Reddy’s constituency. As a politician, he had started off as a sarpanch and later became an MLA. Up to Class VII, I studied in Dhanwada and later I moved to Hyderabad for further education. When I was doing Intermediate, I got married into a family of politicians from Mahbubnagar. After marriage, I moved to my father-in-law DK Satya Reddy’s place in Gadwal.

Fun-filled childhood…
As a child, I never had to face any kind of discrimination as there was no differentiation between a boy and a girl in the family. I had a fun-filled, memorable childhood. All our friends would go swimming in the well near our house, play marbles, and what not! We would run around in the village, play all possible games. I was very active and would mingle with everybody in the village and in my school. I still remember climbing trees in my village, along with my friends. We also had a pony at our house. During evenings, I would go on a ride in my village on the pony.

Not so studious child…
I was not studious; nor was I a poor student. It is just that I was not a bookworm. I would attend classes and grasp what my teachers taught and write the same in exams. I would never sit extra hours and study; I was an above-average student. I am the eldest child of my parents. We all siblings were just like friends. Though my parents did not like it, we used to play in sunny weather or wallow in the mud. They would warn us only if we did such stuff, apart from that the only time I got yelled at by my father was when I was not consuming my medicine despite being sick.

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Wanted to become a doctor…
As a child, I wanted to become a doctor or at least get into the field of medicine. I got married at an early age and being part of the extended family meant a lot of responsibilities. So, I never got the opportunity to do something there. I never thought I would get into politics. My entry happened by accident. My father-in-law was an MLA. After he passed away, my brother-in-law became an MLA, followed by my husband. My husband, D.K. Bharatha Simha Reddy stepped back and brought me to the frontline in politics. I contested for LS seat in 1996 but lost narrowly. I later contested in 1999 but lost by 2,000 votes. After that, I started fighting a lot on public issues. I held padayatras, movements, and agitations on power, water issues and more. I used to go from village to village, talking to people and learning about their issues and fight with the government to solve them. Back then, we had a lot of migration-related issues, especially in Mahbubnagar. At that point in time; I fought a lot for irrigation projects. I also went on a hunger strike for six days. It was a big thing back then for a woman to do something like this. My padayatras were on the spot decision. I would sleep on roads and footpaths.

A strict mom…
As for my kids, I was pretty strict with them about discipline. After they grew up, they have become my good friends. They are now very friendly with me and my husband. As children, they were kind of scared of me. Before I entered politics, we used to watch a lot of films and go around with friends. Now, I don’t really get time to do anything else. While I travel, I listen to music if I’m not on call with anybody. My reading too, is limited to newspapers.

Before entering politics, every year we would visit a tourist location – be it domestic or international. Now that my kids have grown up and they are married and have their own families, it gets difficult for us to go on vacations. Especially after my foray into politics, we skipped our annual holidays. All three daughters of mine are all settled in India. My elder daughter is into interior designing and she is pretty successful in what she does. My second daughter and her husband are into IT, while the younger one is a physiotherapy doctor. My second and youngest daughter is interested in politics. My second daughter, although she is interested, doesn’t have time to focus on it full time. My younger daughter was the Congress youth unit president. She is very keen on entering politics. She had a daughter recently, so she is away from politics for a while. She is now becoming active in my constituency.

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I’m not a ferocious leader…
People consider me ferocious because I say things to people’s faces. But I’m actually not. I don’t like it when people hide things. Since I am straightforward, I come across as a ferocious woman. Even if I’m tired or angry, I never show my restlessness or tiredness to them. I ensure I meet people who come to visit me. I like to receive people with patience and listen to their problem. Maybe, at times I show my anger on my family members, but not in public.

Most satisfying moment…
When I completed the Nettempadu project in Gadwal constituency, it was the most satisfying moment in my entire political career. Previously, whenever I visited the area, people would request me to finish the project so as to provide a livelihood to them. Completing that project during my tenure has given me immense satisfaction. The lifestyle of people has completely changed now. Be its literacy rate, agriculture or infrastructure, everything has improved a lot now. The Gadwal I have seen then and the Gadwal I am seeing now are too different places. I also take pride in fighting for making Gadwal a district headquarters. People there are satisfied and I’m satisfied because I developed the area a lot.

My father was my guide…
I contested as an Independent candidate for the third time and won with a good majority. Later Rajasekhar Reddy garu became the CM. He gave me a good identity and I got the opportunity to speak in the Assembly. My father and I got elected at the same time. Even he was an MLA. He was my guide then. I was a housewife until then, my father and my husband guided me throughout. During my tenure, I took up the Nettempadu project and many others. I worked a lot for the development of districts. I would respond to calls from every nook and corner of my constituency. That’s how I reached out to people from the entire district and gained an image for myself.

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Backing from husband…
It’s very difficult to sustain one’s role in politics, especially being a woman. Since I have the backing of my husband, I’m able to sustain in this competitive and male-dominated profession — be it financially or emotionally. Otherwise, women are sidelined in politics. I have overcome many such situations and focused only on my work, creating an identity for myself. Being in Congress, I strengthened the party a lot.

An extremely supportive family…
I’m a successful woman now because of an extremely supportive husband and understanding children: Sravanti, Shruti and Snigdha. I have three daughters. It’s my responsibility to take care of them as they can open up about certain things only with their mothers. Although I wasn’t available for them most of the time, they understood my work. Since I had a busy lifestyle, I got my children admitted to hostels, as I was out most of the time. Support from my husband came naturally as he too came from a family with a political background and knew how this profession works.

Describe yourself in three words: I am what I am by the people and I am for the people. I will go to any extent for the welfare of the people.

Favourite holiday destination: Back then it was Ooty because it was very peaceful. Now it has become crowded. I like Mauritius as well. It is peaceful.

Favourite food: I am a vegetarian by birth. I like snacking on bajjis, garelu, vadas.

Your future plans: To strengthen BJP in Telangana and Karnataka. We want to defeat TRS, as everybody wants BJP to come to power in Telangana. I will work hard to ensure BJP comes to power in Telangana.

If you are given a holiday, where would you go: I want to go to my farm, along with my family, and stay away from mundane things.

What do you do in your free time: Since I leave in the morning, and keep running from pillar to post, in whatever little time I get, I like to clean my room and organise my wardrobe and involve myself in chores.

Food indulgence: I like fruits, especially mangoes and sithaphal.

Do you plan to write an autobiography: Some of my well- wishers are coming forward to write my biography, but I’m not very keen about it.  May be, I’ll do it sometime later.

Fitness secret: Earlier I would walk every day, now I don’t do anything specific to keep myself fit. #KhabarLive #hydnews