Disillusionment With Politics? Why Not a Single Trans Person Stakes Claim for Any Seat Ahead of Lok Sabha Elections 2024

This is despite the fact that the community across the country is demanding political representation.
Late Kamala Bua, former mayor of Sagar, and Shabnam 'Mausi', former MLA Sohagpur
Late Kamala Bua, former mayor of Sagar, and Shabnam 'Mausi', former MLA SohagpurFile Photo

Bhopal: Transgender persons, who have no representation either in the Parliament or state assemblies, are perhaps the most overlooked community whose concerns such as right to a dignified life, health and education are never discussed by any political party in the run-up of elections.

The state of Madhya Pradesh, which had elected the country’s first transgender MLA and mayor, at present has no participation of community in the state politics. The election of Kamala ‘Bua’ (as mayor of Sagar in 2009) and Shabnam ‘Mausi’ (as MLA of Sohagpur in 1998) to the public office had given third genders a ray of hope. 

Apart from raising the issues of corruption, unemployment, poverty and hunger, they spoke out against discrimination against transgender persons, hijras, eunuchs and cross-dressers and raised awareness about HIV/AIDS. 

But the changing times systematically excluded the third gender social group from politics. Like previous elections, this time also no transgender has staked claim from any seat in the state in the run-up of the Lok Sabha elections 2024. However, except Madhya Pradesh, transgender persons are demanding political representation in various states of the country.

Hijras were granted voting rights in 1994 in India.

As Shabnam ‘Mausi’ was elected to Madhya Pradesh Assembly, transgender persons from different parts of the country began taking part in the electoral process of the nation. Therefore, the state deserves credit for the new awakening. But unfortunately, the development emerged short lived.

Speaking to The Mooknayak, Bhopal-based transgender activist Sanjana Singh said that the transgender community has no political representation because it is denied tickets by political parties. 

“If political parties had given tickets to active people of our community who wanted to go into politics and serve the public, then perhaps many of us would have been elected as MLAs and MPs today,” she said.

Biju Mahila Janata Dal Vice President Meera Parida claimed they have been fighting for their rights for a long time.

“We are constantly demanding our rights. We should have representation in every sector. It’s not that we cannot win elections as many transgender persons have made it to public offices,” she said, citing the example of Madhu ‘Bai’, who was elected as a mayor in Chhattisgarh. 

When the NALSA judgment came in April 2014, she said, it gave equal rights to every citizen irrespective of their caste, creed, religion and sexual orientation.

“Society and political outfits must consider us as equals. We should have reservation in every walk of life, be it in politics, government jobs, education, etc. We should have the right to get tickets in politics as well,” asserted Parida.

Drawing a parallel, she asked, “When Bollywood celebrities and sports persons are sent to Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament), then why can’t transgenders? When they can contest elections, we should also be given the opportunity as equal stakeholders. It’s not about our numbers in public offices and other sectors, it’s about equality and rights. Everyone should get equal rights.”

Rise and Fall of Shabnam ‘Mausi’

In the year 2000, Shabnam made her community’s presence felt by winning a by-election in Sohagpur (presently, Jaisinghnagar) assembly of Shahdol district. In the February 17 polls, people enthusiastically voted in her favour.

February 25, 2000 (the day of counting) emerged as a day, which scripted history and grabbed headlines in India and abroad. 

She was not only declared victorious but had the distinction of becoming the first transgender MLA by securing a record 40.8 percent votes. She made heavyweights of both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bite the dust.

The bypoll on Sohagpur seat was held following the death of senior Congress leader KP Singh. Hoping to retain the seat, riding on sympathy wave, the Congress had fielded Singh’s son Brijesh Singh to take on BJP’s Lallu Singh.

But the electorates preferred a eunuch over the seasoned politicians to represent them. Shabnam won the election by contesting at very low expense. Of the total 90,611 votes in the constituency, she bagged 39,937 votes. In contrast, while the Congress got 17,282 votes, the BJP candidate secured 22,074 votes to stand a distant second.

However, she could not succeed in the next election when she had once again tried her luck as an independent candidate. After losing the election, she left active politics. 

In 2005, a Hindi biopic titled ‘Shabnam Mausi’ was made on her life, wherein famous actor Ashutosh Rana played her role.

From Scratch to Mayor's Office — Kamla Bua’s Success Story

The successful debut of Shabnam ‘Mausi’ into politics encouraged the transgender community to contest elections. 

In the municipal corporation elections held in December 2009, Kamla fought mayoral election from Sagar  a reserved seat for Scheduled Caste (SC) women — as an independent candidate. 

Key was her election symbol. In the nomination papers, she had described herself as a SC, and instead of writing third gender, she had identified herself as a woman. 

She got about 65,000 votes and defeated the BJP candidate by a margin of about 40,000 ballots. However, she later joined the incumbent BJP.

Two years later, Kamla’s election was declared void by the district court of Sagar. The court noted that she could not prove herself as a woman belonging to the SC category.

She challenged the decision in the Chhattisgarh High Court. In the meantime, a SC woman councilor, Anita Ahirwar, was nominated as mayor for the remaining term.

Following a prolonged legal battle, which lasted for about one-and-a-half years, the High Court upheld the lower court’s decision — denying her relief. The single judge bench of Justice JK Maheshwari ordered the appointment of Suman Ahirwar, who had stood second, as the mayor till a fresh election was held.

After the High Court’s decision, a by-election was held to elect a new mayor. BJP’s Pushpa Shilpi had won by defeating Congress’ Indu Chaudhary. 

Kamla ‘Bua’ passed away in 2019.

How Neha Kinnar Pushed BJP to Distant Third 

In the 2018 assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, independent candidate Neha Kinnar had contested from Ambah (reserved) against BJP’s Gabbar Sakhwar, Congress’ Kamlesh Jatav and BSP’s Satyaprakash Sakhwar.

She secured second position by getting 23.85 percent votes. While Jatav got 37,343 votes, Neha bagged 29,796 ballots. With 29,715 votes, BJP’s nominee stood at third position. 

According to an estimate, Madhya Pradesh has about 35,000 transgender persons. However, only 1,373 of them are listed as voters.

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