Will Ayodhya elect a transgender from Bihar as its mayor?

Will Ayodhya elect a transgender from Bihar as its mayor?

The Samajwadi Party on Sunday fielded transgender Gulshan alias Bindu to head the Ayodhya Nagar Nigam.

By Kanchan Srivastava

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BJP rival Samajwadi Party is apparently seeking to change the political narrative in Ayodhya by fielding a transgender for the post of Ayodhya Nagar Nigam mayor. Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s party announced Gulshan alias Bindu’s candidature on Sunday evening.

The announcement comes days after chief minister Yogi Adityanath held a magnificent Diwali celebration with much fanfare at Lord Ram’s birthplace Ayodhya in an apparent bid to revive the Ram Temple issue ahead of civic elections in Uttar Pradesh.

The Ayodhya Nagar Nigam was created by the Yogi Adityanath government recently, by merging the smaller council of Ayodhya with the Faizabad Nagar Nigam – a political move dubbed as clever by the opposition parties.

Gulshan, 50, is being considered as a strong contender for the post, thanks to her past performance. She was the runner-up in the 2012 civic polls, when the post of Ayodhya Council president went to the BJP by just 400-odd votes. Her slogan – “Na Muslim, Na Hindu, Abki Gulshan Bindu” – was quite popular in the constituency then.

If elected, she would be the first transgender to head the municipal body of Ayodhya, which is regarded by many as the capital of Awadh ruled by Lord Ram.

Bindu could not be reached till the time of going to press. Confirming the development, SP spokesperson Sunil Singh Sajan said: “We have chosen Bindu as mayor candidate based on her winnability and other political equations. We also wish to set an example by giving an opportunity to a transgender.”

The BJP is yet to announce its candidate, purportedly due to intense infighting among half-a-dozen aspirants. The Congress has pitched Shailendra Mani Pandey.

The Ayodhya contest is being viewed as a most important one, considering the high stakes. Bindu’s entry in the fray has alerted the saffron camp, which has to deal with anti-incumbency as well.

A local BJP leader said: “It is a Catch-22 situation for us. The party would like to bag the mayor’s post at any cost for several long and short-term goals. We are afraid that some of our factions might secretly back Bindu after announcement of the ticket. The triangular contest will make the contest a little unpredictable and a little miscalculation can cost the party dear.”

Ayodhya and Faizabad, the twin heritage cities, lag behind on most developmental parameters despite being in the limelight due to the temple issue for the past few decades.

The lack of basic as well as tourism infrastructure, substandard health and education facilities, absence of industries and other livelihood resources are the major issues affecting the commoners in the two places.

Observers say the previous BSP and SP governments could do little for Ayodhya, and neither could the recent BJP government, barring its rhetoric around the temple issue for political gains. “Besides, people are unhappy with the performance of previous council presidents and might back Bindu in hope,” a local resident pointed out.

Bindu had joined the BSP in 2014 but switched to the SP later. She stays in a small house in Faizabad’s Gulab Bari, which houses the tomb of the Nawab of Awadh, Shuja-Ud-Daula. Locals say she settled in Ayodhya nearly a decade ago.

“She hails from Mithila (Bihar), the home of Sita, the wife of Lord Rama,” says Dr Amarjeet Maurya, one of her aides. She has been seeking a special monetary package for the maintenance of heritage buildings that the twin cities of Ayodhya and Faizabad have. She speaks a dozen Indian languages, thanks to her pan-India travels.

According to her election affidavit filed in the 2012 Assembly elections, she is “literate” and in the “transgender  business” with no criminal record. Bindu doesn’t possess any immovable assets and even her movable assets amounted to a modest Rs 1.8 lakh five years ago. She is yet to file her nomination for the mayoral post.

Civic elections in Uttar Pradesh are slated to be held in phases in the last week of November. Nominations for the corporator and mayor posts started on Sunday. Stakes are high as the results would be treated as a mini-poll for the BJP ahead of the 2019 general elections.