The world’s largest democracy goes to the polls today for the first phase of  multi-stage parliamentary elections.  By mid May, 714 million voters will cast ballots at 800,000 polling stations. There are, all told, 1,715 candidates for office. But one of these political hopefuls is unlike any other candidate India has ever seen. Her name is Daya Rani Kinnar and she is a transsexual activist.

From the Hindustan Times:

Kinnar is a popular figure in Ghaziabad and will stand for election as an independent candidate. “I don’t mind taking on all the political heavyweights. I was born in Ghaziabad and people know me. I don’t have children. I will work only for people. I am going to give a tough fight to Rajnath Singh, who is an outsider. The sitting MP did nothing for the constituency,” Kinnar said.

Kinnar, founder of Sarva Samaj Sewa Samiti (a welfare organisation), promises a safe, developed Ghaziabad district.

Although illiterate, Kinnar is confident. City roads are already lined with her banners and hoardings. In these, she appears with a bindi on her forehead and head draped in a sari.

She is banking on the electorate’s disenchantment with politicians. “I am just like a ‘no-vote option’ button on electronic voting machines,” she said.

Unfortunately, the Indian press identifies her as a “eunuch.” Still, just the fact that she feels empowered to put herself in the public lime light is itself a remarkable achievement in a society known for conservative cultural mores.   This video from Russia Today reminds me that one courageous person can help break these barriers.

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