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Transgender Face of Congress: Can Apsara Reddy revive weakened Congress?

Apsara Reddy, who has recently joined the Indian National Congress as the National General Secretary of the All India Mahila Congress (AIMC), is a transgender woman who has given new hopes to her community. An advocate of transgender’s rights, Reddy is the first transgender to hold such position in Congress. She was earlier associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the AIADMK. She was welcomed into India’s oldest party by party President Rahul Gandhi in the presence of Lok Sabha MP and AIMC chief Sushmita Dev on Tuesday.

Apsara Reddy is also a well-known transgender journalist and before stepping into transgender activism, she completed her graduation and post graduation in Journalism from Monash University and the City University, London.

While attacking the saffron party, Apsara said, “BJP government has this demeaning attitude towards the Transgender community. We don’t need altruism, we need assistance to bridge the inequality meted out to us for far too long.” “All my life, I have been told that you’ll never be able to make it in your life. To be welcomed into one of India’s largest and oldest national parties is hugely emotional for me,” said Apsara upon joining the Congress.

She further said, “Congress is truly a party that built India and sustained us for generations with good policy and a sensitive and inclusive approach in governance. The party President’s commitment to fair representation of women, women-centric manifesto goals and dynamism are truly inspiring and I would be delighted to serve women across the country under his leadership.”

Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, renowned transgender activist and a spiritual leader told this newspaper, “This is one great example of bestowing equality to the community. We are ruling the spiritual spaces to the politics of India; many of us are highly educated and contributing a lot to the nation building. The change has already begun; soon you will see our community doing best in all means by giving up set monotonous ways of life.”

“If given a chance, I too will get into Indian politics because this is one powerful platform to do justice to the mankind and serve the community and nation,” she added.

Apsara Reddy, a former journalist, had joined the AIADMK party in May 2016. However, after Jayalalithaa’s death, she moved to the pro-Sasikala camp of the AIADMK.

Another activist from the transgender community, Disent Sahu, said, “This generation in the transgender community for a large period of their lifetime don’t realise that they are different than others and they have to fight for their rights. Inclusion of Apsara Reddy into mainstream society can be highly positive for their future. She can be a role model!”

Before joining the AIADMK, she also had a brief stint with the BJP but the conservative approach of the party did not allow her to sustain with them. Explaining her reasons for leaving the BJP, the activist complained that she was just a “photo opportunity” for the party on Women’s Day. Apsara is probably the only trans personality to head several national newspapers across the world. Born a boy, Apsara later transitioned to be a woman. She has a degree in Broadcast Journalism with specialisation in Investigative Journalism.

Transgender activist Vidya Rajput asserted, “We are very happy that Apsara Reddy has been appointed into India’s oldest national political party. With this big step, we expect that Reddy will become an ideal for the community in coming time. Many transgenders in our society spend their lives begging or being a sex worker; however, Reddy’s contribution in mainstream politics,will be noteworthy for many.”

“Even today, there are many transgenders who want to be a part of the mainstream world, but they don’t get the right platform. With my NGO, I am trying to work towards the welfare of our community and have been successful in the cause. We hope that the society will now start accepting us wholeheartedly. Not only male or female, but the third gender can also be a part of the national politics and the community can get a reservation for its development,” Rajput added.

“Seeing Apsara Reddy in such a reverent post is a matter of pride for us. Reddy is now one of the front-runners of the Congress party and we expect her to be our voice and work towards the welfare of the transgender community. We don’t get work in the society. We request the government to come up with policies, build colleges, help the students and the senior citizens to help our community to come forward and survive in the society with dignity,” Santosh, a transgender from Thane spoke to AV.

Transgender activist Kanchan expressed, “This is the first time that a national party has appointed a transgender in such a relevant post. All other national parties should also follow the path and include us into the mainstream field. While the Election Commission has no different column for the third gender in its nomination form, whenever a transgender fights in the election, voters trust us that we can work for the welfare of the citizens.” 

In the similar tone with Kanchan, transgender Mayuri from Kolhapur said, “This is applaudable that Congress took the decision to join hands with Apsara Reddy though I feel sad that the society took so long to accept our community. Every party and even Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha must have representatives from the transgender community as we would be the best to voice for our rights.”

 


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