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More Than Men Can Do
From the dholak to the ballot box, it's been an interesting journey for Asha Devi (alias Amarnath Yadav), Kallu (alias Salam-ud-din) and Bijli. All three have emerged convincing winners in the recent civic bodies' elections.
Not only have they made a mark for themselves, they have also inspired their entire community. Says Kanpur-based Chanda Guru, self-styled leader of the largest association of eunuchs in north and central India: "People have realised that we have more mardangi (manliness) than the present politicians and bureaucrats. That's why they have voted for us."
Asha Devi, who won the Gorakhpur mayor's seat by over 65,000 votes, has already set her priorities: "I'll work towards upliftment of women, encourage literacy, build homes for the homeless and leave no stone unturned to see my city clean." She may even make a quick trip to Madhya Pradesh to draw from the experience of fellow eunuch Kamala Mausi, mayor of Katni. While in Bhopal, she'll also meet Shabnam Mausi, the first eunuch to become an mla.
Bijli won the Kamalganj corporator's seat from Farrukhabad, trouncing the opposition convincingly. Local Congressmen abandoned their own nominee to work for her. While Kallu, who won a corporator's seat from Bareilly, claims that SP chief Mulayam Singh had backed her, state president Ram Saran Das denies this. "Why on earth should we start bringing eunuchs to the fore? Don't we have enough capable males to contest the elections?"
Sociologists see the trend of eunuchs winning elections as a culmination of peoples' frustration with politicians, as well as experimentation with a novel idea. Says Lucknow University head of sociology, Dr Abha Awasthi: "People have barely given a thought to the social impact of their choice. More than anything else, people are signalling that this is the only alternative left after years of frustration under different leaders."
The eunuchs' candidature went down well in UP, where they harped on the Ramayana to bolster their cause. Bhagwan Ram, they pointed out, had promised eunuchs they'd rule in Kalyug. After all, they were the first to greet him when he returned to Ayodhya after 14 years of vanvas.
Admits UP CM Rajnath Singh: "The winning of eunuchs is to be taken with a pinch of salt. But it is a salutary lesson for the bjp." And for other parties as well.