An Excerpt from the Book “The Power of the Ballot : Travail and Triumph in the Elections”

Interestingly in the 2022 UP assembly elections, the BJP and SP, both major claimants, are scrambling to win the support of the transgender community in the state. The Yogi government has bestowed the status of a state minister on a ‘kinnar’. A Kinnar Welfare Board has also been constituted for the first time. Sonam, a transgender, was nominated as the vice-chairperson of the board. Then, a notification was issued extending the status of the minister of state on the vice-president of the UP Kinnar Board. How could Opposition leader Akhilesh Yadav lag in bagging the support from the kinnars? He constituted the Samajwadi Kinnar Sabha on the pattern of the Samajwadi Yuvjan Sabha. Payal Kinnar has been nominated as its head. The SP has declared its willingness to accommodate a kinnar as its candidate in the coming elections. On the electoral rolls of the state, there are only about 7,500 ‘others’ besides two categories, male and female, on the electoral rolls. They are insignificant in number but taking a cue from the past, both parties do not want to take any risk. In the 2012 assembly elections, Gulshan alias Bindu (a kinnar) bagged as many as 22,023 votes in Ayodhya assembly constituency, whereas Lallu Singh, the sitting legislator for the last five terms from the BJP, lost the battle by only 5,405 votes to Tej Narain Pandey alias Pawan Pandey of the SP. Bindu was the centre of attraction on the hustings.

Earlier, Amarnath Yadav alias Asha Devi (a kinnar) had won the election for the post of Mayor of Gorakhpur Municipal Corporation in 2001. She had humbled the sitting mayor by a margin of more than 60,000 votes. All her opponents including candidates from the BJP, the Congress and SP had lost their security deposits. The seat was reserved for women and Asha Devi was a male kinnar. The State Election Commission was of the view that a transgender would be treated as a woman.

Earlier, Shabnam ‘Mausi’ Bano of the Congress had created history by becoming the first elected legislator from the Sohagpur assembly constituency in the Shahdol district of Madhya Pradesh in 1998. Transgender persons were granted voting rights in 1994 in the country. She inspired many transgender people in India to take up politics and participate in ‘mainstream activities’ in India, giving up their traditional roles as dancers, prostitutes and beggars, living on the fringes of Indian society.

Two decades later, in the 2018 assembly elections, as many as five transgenders including Shabnam Mausi entered the electoral fray in Madhya Pradesh, but came out as unsuccessful. This time, Shabnam Mausi contested from Kotma in the Anuppur district as an independent. The five other transgender candidates in the fray were Neha Kinnar from Ambah in Morena, Shabbo Bua from Damoh, Sundar Singh aka Shalu Mausi from Jaisingh Nagar in Shahdol, Bala

Veshwar from Indore II and Panchi Deshmukh from Hoshangabad.

In the 2019 assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Simhadri Tamanna, a 34-year-old cine artist was an independent candidate from Mangalagiri (Guntur in Andhra Pradesh). Konna Kishore, alias Seelapa, 33, a graduate in computer applications, filed a nomination from the Payakaraopeta assembly segment in the Visakhapatnam district. Naresh Kumar Jayswal alias Raju Mataji, 28, a transgender filed her nomination as an independent candidate from the Ahmedabad (East) constituency in Gujarat. She became the first from her community in the state to contest an election.

Aswathi Rajappan, alias Chinju, was perhaps one of the youngest candidates in the Lok Sabha fray in 2019 from Kerala. She was 25 years old. A postgraduate degree holder from the Mahatma Gandhi University of Kerala, Chinju is a Dalit, intersex person who contested from Ernakulam (Kerala) as an independent candidate. Transgender Sneha Kale, 27, contested as an independent candidate from Mumbai North-Central Lok Sabha seat against the sitting BJP MP Poonam Mahajan and Congress leader Priya Dutt. Prashant Warkar, another transgender, was in the fray from Satara Lok Sabha constituency as an independent candidate. Jatin Rangrao Harane, another transgender, entered the electoral battle as an independent candidate from the Mumbai North-East Lok Sabha constituency.

Kajal Nayak became the first transgender to contest an assembly election in Odisha. She was the BSP candidate from the Korei assembly seat of the Jajpur district. Ramanujam or Radha, 53 years old, contested as an independent candidate from the South Chennai Lok Sabha constituency. Bharathi Kannamma, 58, a postgraduate in sociology and a transgender, contested as an independent candidate from Madurai. It was her second attempt. AAP fielded its first transgender candidate, Chirpi Bhawani, from the Allahabad (now Prayagraj) seat in Uttar Pradesh. A member of Kinnar Akhada, she is also known as Mahamandaleshwar Bhawani Nath Valmiki. However, none of them bagged success.

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