TN’s lone transgender candidate traverses long distances to canvass for votes
The razzmatazz of campaigning, so much a part of elections anywhere in India, is missing but Tamil Nadu’s lone transgender candidate M Radha is undeterred as she walks tirelessly from one corner of the South Chennai parliamentary constituency to another to canvass for votes. Accompanied by just a band of 25 odd supporters, Radha traverses long distances from dawn to dusk in the heat, confident she can put up a tough fight in a seat dominated by the biggies — arch rivals DMK and AIADMK and actor Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam.
A cook by profession, 50-year-old Radha is fighting the election as an Independent and is keen on raising women’s issues in the Lok Sabha if elected. Two members of the transgender community filed their nominations for the polls in Tamil Nadu on April 18. The other person, who filed from Madurai, withdrew her nomination subsequently. For Radha, this is also a personal battle. “At least one transgender should be elected to the Parliament/assembly. We transgenders are known for both our bravery and compassion,” Radha told PTI.
Hurt by incidents of violence against women and children such as the recent cases of sexual harassment in Pollachi and the sexual assault and murder of a seven-year-old girl in Coimbatore, Radha said her priority will be safety of women if she is elected. “I will even press for capital punishment for such offences,” she said. Local issues, including drinking water and power supply, are also on her list of focus areas. According to Radha, the earlier stigma attached with being a transgender has faded as people respect them. “We receive a warm reception from the people during canvassing,” she said.
More transgender persons are coming out in the open with their identity after the Supreme Court decriminalised part of Section 377 of the IPC, which criminalises consensual unnatural sex, in September 2018, she said. Her entry into politics, she said, could encourage more members of the community to do the same. Money is scarce and Radha is relying on crowdfunding to meet her poll expenditure. Many fellow transgenders are contributing, she said. According to her poll affidavit, Radha has Rs 50,000 in cash and no other movable and immovable asstes. She has no cases pending against her.
“I am accompanied by about 20-30 transgenders daily. We cannot afford a vehicle so we do our campaigning only by foot, from dawn to dusk,” Radha added. The long and hard campaign is nearing an end and she is not willing to give up. A win or a loss, Radha is prepared to take both in her stride. She said she will continue fighting subsequent polls, including local body elections, if she loses the April 18 Lok Sabha polls. The South Chennai.constituency is witnessing a direct battle between AIADMK’s sitting MP J Jayavardhan, who is seeking a successive term, and DMK’s Sumathi alias Thamizhachi Thangapandian who is making her electoral debut. MNM has fielded former IAS officer R Rangarajan, also a chartered accountant. A total of 845 candidates including 781 men and 63 women are in fray for the April 18 Lok Sabha elections to 39 constituencies in the state.
Source : Devdiscourse