Rabri Devi, the wife of Lalu Prasad Yadav, is an Indian politician of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) who has served as the CM of Bihar for three terms. She became the CM of Bihar for the first time in July 1997 after the previous CM Lalu Yadav was convicted in a fodder scam case, popularly known as “Chara Ghotala,” making her the first woman Chief Minister of Bihar.
Rabri Devi was born on Saturday, 1 January 1955 (age 66 years; as of 2021) in Selar Kalan village, district Gopalganj, Bihar. Her zodiac sign is Capricorn. She grew up in the Selar Kalan village along with her three sisters and three brothers. She studied till 5th standard at a local village school. Rediff In an interview, she talked about her education and said that she had to travel almost two to three miles away from her home in her native village to attend the school. She considers the lack of educational infrastructure as the reason behind her sisters’ lack of education who could not attend the school. Moreover, she believes that the parents in villages are somewhat skeptical about sending their girls to study at a far place. In an interview, while talking about this, she said,
I have studied till the fifth standard. Even today, our village doesn’t have a secondary school. The school I went to was quite far away, two to three miles away. In villages, parents don’t wish to send their girls so far. None of my sisters went to school. But my brothers received their education because they could go out. I feel that it was because of the absence of a school in my village that I remained illiterate.”
Family & Caste
Parents & Siblings
Rabri Devi’s father, Shiv Prasad Chaudhary, was a farmer who also owned a ration shop in Gopalganj. Her mother, Jagmato Devi, was a homemaker. Rabri Devi has six siblings – three brothers and three sisters. All her brothers, Anirudh Prasad aka Sadhu Yadav, Subhash Prasad Yadav, and Prabhunath Yadav, are active politicians. All her sisters, Paan, Jalebi, and Rasgulla, are married in a well-off family.
Husband & Children
At the age of 14, Rabri Devi got married to Lalu Yadav on 1 June 1973. They went on to have nine children: two sons, Tej Pratap Yadav (first), and Tejashwi Yadav (second); and seven daughters, Misa Bharti (politician; eldest), Rohini Acharya (second), Chanda Singh (third), Ragini Yadav (fourth), Hema Yadav (fifth), Anushka Rao (sixth), and Rajlaxmi Singh (youngest). All of them, except Tejashwi Yadav, are married.
The Yadav Family often makes headlines for its large size. In an interview, Rabri Devi condemned those who questioned the size of her family. She said,
There are families with 16 or 20 children. Why don’t people mind their own children? The people who joke about the size of our family are not even able to take proper care of one or two children. Though I have nine children I am taking proper care of them and am running the state too. This doesn’t suit people. They are jealous. They are not able to digest the fact that an illiterate mother is occupying the khursi. They are ridiculing me because I have power. Is it a crime to produce children?”
From Homemaker to CM
The appointment of Rabri Devi as the CM of Bihar in 1997 was considered the most shocking incident not only in Bihar politics but also in the politics of the entire country. Lalu Yadav, in his autobiography “Gopalganj to Raisina Road: My Political Journey,” writes that the suggestion of transferring the Bihar’s CM post to Rabri Devi was first given to him by the then Indian National Congress’ (INC) president Sitaram Kesri; however, he laughed off his suggestion at that time. Then, on the evening of 24 July 1997, Lalu Yadav called a meeting of RJD MLA’s at his residence and announced,
I have decided to resign from the post of CM. I request all of you to maintain unity in this time of crisis and choose your leader as Chief Minister.”
According to Lalu Yadav, he did not name Rabri Devi or any other person for the post of Chief Minister in this meeting. According to him, in the meeting, his minister-level colleagues including Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Jagadananda Singh, and Mahavir Jha, who were very close to him, put forward Rabri Devi’s name for the post of CM of Bihar. All the MLAs also unanimously agreed on the name of Rabri Devi. After Lalu Yadav left his chair due to the fodder scam, his semi-literate wife, Rabri Devi, stepped out of the kitchen and settled on the chair of the Chief Minister of Bihar. According to Rabri Devi, she was not ready to become the Chief Minister as she didn’t consider herself suitable enough for the post, and she just wanted to remain a typical homemaker as she enjoyed doing the daily household chores. In an interview, while narrating the story of how she became the Chief Minister of Bihar, she said,
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.”
She served as the CM of Bihar for three terms from 1997 to 2005. Her first chief ministerial tenure was between 25 July 1997 and 11 February 1999, the second was between 9 March 1999 and 2 March 2000, and the third and the last was between 11 March 2000 and 6 March 2005.
In 2005, Rabri Devi successfully contested her first Assembly election from Vaishali’s Raghopur constituency. In the 2010 Bihar Legislative Assembly election, Rabri Devi contested from two seats Raghopur and Sonpur; however, she lost both seats. She then contested from the Saran constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha election but lost again. She held the post of the Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Legislative Council from 12 May 2018 to 23 June 2020.
- In 2019, Aishwarya Rai, the estranged wife of her son Tej Pratap Yadav lodged an FIR against Rabri Devi, Tej Pratap Yadav, and Misa Bharti, accusing them of torturing her when she was staying at their house. The Hindu
- Rabri Devi, along with Lalu Prasad Yadav and others, was named in the Fodder Scam that involved the embezzlement of about Rs. 9.4 billion (equivalent to Rs. 39 billion or US$540 million in 2019) from the government treasury of Bihar. On 5 April 2000, she was charge-sheeted and was asked to surrender, but she was granted bail on the same day along with her husband. On 9 June 2000, the charges were framed against Rabri Devi and Lalu Yadav; however, on 18 December 2006, a special CBI court acquitted them. India Today
- In June 2017, she was heavily criticized when she gave a remark that she will never accept a mall-going woman as her daughters-in-law. According to Rabri Devi, she wanted daughters-in-law who “will respect them, abstain from trips to the mall, and run the house smoothly.” NDTV
- On 24 August 2018, a case was registered against Rabri Devi, Lalu Yadav, and Tejashwi Yadav by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the IRCTC hotels allotment money laundering case. In the charge sheet, the ED accused them of granting sub-lease of the rights of two railway hotels at Puri and Ranchi to Ms Sujata Hotel Pvt Ltd. by misusing their powers; however, in October 2018, Rabri Devi and Tejashwi Yadav were granted bail by the Patiala House Court in Delhi. India Today
- In November 2020, she gave a controversial statement on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She said that Modi reminded her of Gujarat Riots. The Economic Times
208, Kautilya Nagar, MP MLA Colony, PO-B.V. College, District-Patna
Movable (Rs. 6, 52, 69, 429)
- Cash in hand: Rs. 1, 24, 127.70 (as of 31 March 2017)
- Bonds & Shares: Rs. 12, 55, 000 (as of 31 March 2017)
- Motor Vehicles: A Mercedes Bez (worth Rs. 40 lakh), a Mariti 800 (worth Rs. 25 thousand), and a Military Disposal Jeep (worth Rs. 20 thousand) – as of 13 April 2018
- Jewelry: 467 gm of Gold (worth Rs. 14 lakh), 1 kg of Silver (worth Rs. 45 thousand) – as of 13 April 2018
- Livestock: 41 Cows & 18 Calves (worth Rs. 22 lakh)
- Weapons: A Double Barrel Gun with 50 Cartridges (worth Rs. 90 thousand), .314 Bore Rifle with 50 Cartridges (worth Rs. 1 lakh), and a German Make Pistol with 50 cartridges (worth Rs. 3 lakh) – as of 13 April 2018
Immovable (Rs. 9, 29, 00, 000)
- Agricultural Land: 5 Bigha in Selar Kalan Village, Gopalganj, Bihar (worth Rs. 25 lakh), 8 Katha land in Patna (worth Rs. 2 crore), a piece of land in Fulwaria Village, Gopalganj, Bihar (worth Rs. 5 lakh)
- Non-agricultural Land: 1 katha plot in Village Dhanaut in Patna (worth Rs. 22 lakh), 2432 sq. ft. plot in Shastrinagar, Patna (worth Rs. 20 lakh, a plot in Naya Tola, Danapur, Patna (worth Rs. 1.10 crore), 1 katha plot in Danapur, Patna (worth Rs. 20 lakh)
- Commercial Building: 1800 sq. ft. in Danapur, Patna (worth Rs. 2 crore)
- Residential Building: Five residential apartments in Patna (worth Rs. 1.54 crore)
- Just like Rabri Devi, all her three sisters, Paan, Jalebi, Rasgulla, are named after a variety of Indian sweets as there was a tradition in her village to ask the woman what the first thing she wanted to eat right after giving birth to a child, and thus Rabri Devi and her three sisters were named after their mother’s cravings for a variety of Indian sweets. Gulf News
- Rabri Devi belongs to an affluent landlord family; however, at the time of marriage, Lalu Yadav’s family was very poor. She revealed this in an interview. She said,
Our parents were quite well off. So my father got me married to a poor guy intentionally. He looked only at his character. He didn’t even own a house, but my father said he would pay for my expenses. My father gave me five bighas of land. I still have that land title with me. Lalooji was studying in Patna at that time, it was important to him.”
- It was only after a year of marriage that Rabri Devi and Lalu Yadav saw each other for the first time. In an interview, while talking about this, she said,
I saw him when I came to Patna — that was a year after our marriage. We got married in 1973. In villages, brides do not leave their father’s house after marriage. In our case, I came to my in-laws’ home after a year.”
- According to Rabri Devi, Lalu Yadav’s family had asked Rs. 5000 thousand as dowry. She revealed this in an interview when she was asked if Lalu Yadav’s family had demanded dowry. She said,
Whatever things are given in marriages, was given to him. In a tilak ceremony, he asked for Rs 5000 and my father gave him accordingly.”
- According to Rabri Devi, on the same day when she arrived in Patna after marriage, Lalu Yadav was arrested and sent to jail. She recalled this incident in an interview. She said,
On the very first night when I came to his house, he went to jail. Imagine my plight! I was pained. I was feeling trapped. I asked my father, ‘where have you sent me?’ My husband went to jail frequently. During our meetings in jail, our relatives would remain present. We were living along with his four brothers in a small quarter in Patna’s veterinary college at that time.”
- Rabri Devi, as the new bride, spent the initial days in Patna living in a one-room chaprasi quarter of the Patna Veterinary College where her husband, his elder brother, and his wife, and more than half a dozen children live together. Vitasta
- Rabri Devi gave birth to only one child after Lalu Yadav became the Chief Minister for the first time in 1990; the rest of her children had born earlier.
- After marriage, Lalu Yadav actively indulged in politics, but Rabri Devi remained a typical housewife. In an interview, when asked about her aloofness, she said,
I never went out of the house. I handled my home and my children. I hated going out of the house. I never had the desire to go out. My husband wanted to take me out to the bazaar and to marriages. But I always refused to go along. It’s a mindset. It’s in my nature. I don’t have any close friends. I prefer to live alone.”
- In 1997, when she became the Chief Minister of Bihar for the first time, the opposition leaders termed her a proxy of Lalu Yadav who continued to rule Bihar with his school dropout wife. During her initial days as the CM, she was also criticized for lacking political acumen. One such opposition leader while terming her the puppet of Lalu Yadav said,
She has always been in the shadow of RJD chief. Till today, he calls the shots. Rabri is not a leader. There can’t be two leaders in the party especially when there is a process underway to pass the baton to Tejashwi.”
- Rabri Devi has never visited a foreign country as she doesn’t hold a passport. It was revealed in 2018 when a Delhi court while granting her bail in the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) scam case lodged by the CBI asked her to submit her passport to which her lawyer said that Rabri Devi didn’t have any passport. Rediff
- As the Chief Minister of Bihar, Rabri Devi has served a year longer than Lalu Yadav’s tenure.
- Even after becoming the Chief Minister, Rabri Devi never quit the routine household chores, and she was often photographed cooking and serving food to her family.
- Sohum Shah‘s 2021 web series Maharani, starring Huma Qureshi, Amit Sial, and Vineet Kumar in lead roles, was loosely based on Rabri Devi’s life; however, Sohum Shah considered it an absolutely fictional story.