Tea vendor Ramesh Chauhan is in a dilemma. His elder “brother” Madhu Bai Kinnar, expelled from the family over a decade ago, has become the “Pratham Nagrik” of Raigarh. Ramesh often uses “her and him”, interchangeably, for Madhu and laughs. “Kya bolun men unko… samaj nahi ata (I don’t know how to address him).”
The family now rushes to reclaim the “son”, who lives with transgenders. Madhu, an Independent candidate, has been elected as the first transgender mayor of Chhattisgarh. “We are very happy. The entire family is celebrating as if it’s Holi and Diwali today,” said Ramesh.
Madhu, who does not have any political base, said her efforts have paid off. “Maine apni behno ke sath ghar-ghar jakar prachar kiya (I did door-to-door campaign with my sisters). People have rejected both BJP and Congress and chosen me,” the 37-year-old said.
Raigarh was a princely estate, and now a major industrial centre with big steel plants, and her election has surprised all. The Raigarh Municipal Corporation was with the BJP but the party denied ticket to sitting mayor Mahendra Chautha and nominated Mahavir Guruji, who had contested last two polls against the party.
International media has lapped up Madhu’s story, with correspondents calling Chhattisgarh journalists to find out more. She does not carry a phone and her brother Ramesh, who has been with her ever since the results on Sunday, connects her on phone.
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Madhu was born Naresh Chauhan in a poor SC family and had different sexual orientation since childhood. “He behaved and dressed like girls. We tried to change him but could not,” said father Nanki Ram, who works as a labourer. The family married off Madhu, who even ‘fathered’ three children. However, she could not remain with his family and finally left to live with transgenders. Since then, the 6-feet tall has worked in street plays and performed folk dances.
The family earlier faced stigma —no longer now. “Now he is the Pratham Nagrik of Raigarh,” said Ramesh. “Ab koi humen kuch nahi keh sakta.” Madhu’s agenda is clear: transgenders will no longer beg in trains. They will be given jobs in the corporation. Next is ensuring new ration cards to all those whose cards were unduly deleted during the verification drive after the fake ration card scam broke.
This is not the first time that India has elected a transgender mayor. Madhya Pradesh elected them twice. Kamla Jaan was elected mayor of Katni in 1999 and Kamla Kinnar from Sagar in 2009. But their elections were declared null and void by courts as the seats were reserved for women.