Amongst the 1,821 candidates who participated in the Telangana poll fray, Chandramukhi Muvvala, contesting from Goshamahal constituency, stood out. She was the only transgender political candidate — and the first one from the state.
A first-time politician, the 32-year-old political David of the Bahujan Left Party was pitted against towering Goliaths from the BJP, Congress and the TRS. Chandramukhi filed her candidature under the name she was given at birth — M. Rajesh. Goshamahal constituency could have made history if Chandramukhi had won today — she would have been the state’s first transgender MLA. However, despite her reported popularity, she lost to political bigwig T Raja Singh.
The BJP’s controversial Hindutva leader T Raja Singh Lodh, who has been slapped with at least 43 cases till date for hate speech, promotion of enmity between different groups and rioting, among others, bagged 61,854 votes. He also heads the Gou Rakshak Movement in Hyderabad and had reportedly threatened to kill beef-eaters and shoot allegedly illegal Muslim migrants. Ironically, Goshamahal is in Hyderabad old city, which consists of sizeable Muslim voters. Furthermore, the constituency has a host of civic issues, for which locals blame the incumbent BJP MLA Raja Singh
It was to set these issues right, besides making the voice of her marginalised community heard, that Chandramukhi had decided to contest.
"I vow to improve the drainage, road connectivity and solid waste management in the constituency. People still live in slums and child labour is on the rise. As an MLA, I will fight to improve the situation,” she reportedly said during her campaign.
When she first decided to jump into the political arena four years ago, Chandramukhi never planned to contest herself. “I thought I'll canvass for some party and I'll make my work, words, or a member of my community a part of it. But I got a BLF ticket and my entire community was happy. It is the first time in both the Telugu states that a member of the trans community got a ticket from a party. [I chose to enter] politics because when we ask for policy-level changes, politicians only promise. They are not trying to make policy-level changes for the benefit of the trans or LGBTQ community. I want to sit there and ask them why they are not doing things, and demand that they start doing them now,” she reportedly said.
Telangana's first transgender contesting elections, Chandramukhi lost to BJP's T Raja Singh. (Photo: Facebook)
Chandramukhi is an activist with the Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti — a local advocacy group for transgender people — actively campaigning against transphobic violence.
Besides taking up gender issues, she believes that levels of education amongst children would make all the difference in the constituency ridden with child labour.
Speaking on the rights of the trans community with respect to the constituency, she says, “There are no housing schemes for trans persons. They don't have information about the government's welfare schemes, and whether or not they are voting is also an issue for us. Some people don't have voter ID cards. We have to look into all of it.”
In a campaign where thousands of crores of rupees were spent and candidates and voters were bribed, Chandramukhi declared her only material asset as her bank balance of Rs 48,000 in the affidavit to the Election Commission and said that she had no property to declare.
Her election campaign, by extension, was on foot and she canvassed from door-to-door.
Chandramukhi reportedly went missing for two days at the end of November 2018, and kidnapping was alleged by her mother and supporters. However, no case has been registered so far.
Chandramukhi had earlier promised her transgender cohorts that she would concentrate all her efforts on the implementation of the 2014 Supreme Court judgement in the National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, known as the NALSA judgement — irrespective of her victory or defeat. “The NALSA judgement should be implemented, and I'll put my heart and soul into it. When it is implemented, Telangana's trans community will get whatever they need. I'll do as much as I can to ensure that each point of it is implemented,” she reportedly said.
Now that Goshamahal has elected the incumbent controversial MLA again, candidates like Chandramukhi can take a break from political campaigning, and instead focus their efforts on the issues that would make the residents’ lives truly better.