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Transgender contestant to take on Indian minister in state elections

Transgender contestant to take on Indian minister in state elections

Chamcham is the tinkle made by the traditional anklets women wear in India.

But there is very little traditional about Chamcham Gajbhiye, who decided to call herself that.

Gajbhiye, a trans woman living in Nagpur, one of the largest cities in central India, is a familiar face in the winter capital, after having contested a municipal election last winter.

Now she is ready to enter the arena again, this time gearing up for a grittier battle. Gajbhiye has chosen to contest against the state minister of employment guarantee and water, Nitin Raut, as the state of Maharashtra goes to polls next year.

Gajbhiye, who like many members of the community earns part of her livelihood from dancing in bars, weddings and festivals, is in the fray to improve the lot of the common man.

Her election campaign in the past has been based on the pledge to generate job opportunities, improve the standards of municipality-run schools, and improve water supply, a major woe in the state.

Though she did not win the election then and is not likely to do so this time too, the attempts however have given the transgender community a higher profile.

Abandoned by her family, she worked her way through college and has a degree in science. She also worked with a call center and now is a counselor as well as activist for transgender rights.

She is also one of the few from the community, if not the first, to notarize her three-year live-in relationship with a man.

Next year, several more states will hold elections to choose local governments while there will be a general election as well.

It is expected that there will be more transgender contestants.

One state, Chhattisgarh in central India, has begun enrolling transgender voters.

According to the voters’ list, there are over 1,400 listed transgender voters.

India’s political parties are growing aware of the need to woo the LGBT voter, who in the past had been largely neglected. Transgender citizens were allowed to vote since 1994.

Shabnam Bano made history in 1998 when she became the first transgender public office holder, elected to the state government of Madhya Pradesh state. 

This month, Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan attended a transgender conclave, promising to establish a transgender welfare board and start sensitization programs for policemen, known to treat the community brutally.

Chavan also promised to start an art academy, fund films on and for the community and run health and education projects for them.