The Significant Other | Maharashtra

This election season has seen increased participation by transgender activists in the state’s politics. The Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) has appointed Disha Pinky Shaikh as its state spokesperson. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has appointed Chandani Gore as vice-president of its women’s cell and Priya Patil as a member of the state working committee.

Known to be a good orator, Shaikh has been working for the community in Ahmednagar district and is determined to use her position for the upliftment of her community. I hope the VBA includes the aspirations of my community in its poll agenda. Providing education and jobs to members of our community will be a priority, says Shaikh, adding that the party’s ideology prompted her to join politics.

Mumbai-based transgender activist Priya Patil works as a project manager at Kinnar Maa Ek Samajik Sanstha, a community NGO. Patil’s association with the NCP began when she worked for a project run by the Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan run by Supriya Sule. Patil had contested the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation election in 2017 as an independent candidate. Though she will not contest the Lok Sabha election, Patil says her priority right now is to address the issue of unemployment in her community. Pune-based social activist Chandani Gore has been running three self-help groups and also works for gender sensitisation through her organisation Nirbhaya’. She feels her induction in the NCP’s women’s cell is a sort of recognition for her community. She now wants a transgender cell in the party and a separate housing scheme for them.

Political observers say the Congress inducting transgender activist Apsara Reddy as its national general secretary has led many others to join politics. For instance, Sneha Kale has announced that she’ll contest from the Mumbai North-central seat, and Prashant Warkar is going to contest from Satara. The law has given us rights. I will work for their effective implementation, says Warkar. Activist Shyam Konnur goes a step further and says the community should be involved in the decision-making process instead of just depending on the judiciary. Incidentally, this election, 1,168 new voters have registered themselves as transgender or others’ in Maharashtra. Of these, 142 are first-time voters in the 18-22 age group. The Election Commission seems to have taken note of this change; it has appointed transgender activist Gauri Sawant as its brand ambassador for Maharashtra. The state government, too, has formed a Transgender Welfare Board to uplift the community.


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