Interview
Bharathi Kannamma hopes to root out corruption and bribery by putting a cap on the amount of wealth one can hoard.

Madurai Collectorate witnessed an extraordinary scene on Friday. A woman, dressed as Goddess Meenakshi of the famous Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple, complete with a crown and a colourful garland, had come to file her nomination papers to contest in the General Elections from Madurai constituency as an independent candidate. Fifty eight-year-old Bharathi Kannamma, a postgraduate in Sociology and a trans woman, is contesting General Elections for the second time after 2014, and this time, the independent candidate says her biggest poll promise is to bring in a wealth ceiling.

Bharathi Kannamma’s three-point manifesto focuses on education, employment, and wealth regulation. “Just like how a land-ceiling came in, there must be an upper ceiling for one’s earnings as well,” she tells TNM, adding that the idea is to automatically deposit the extra earnings of a person beyond a legally mandated amount to the state exchequer. “This money can be used to provide public welfare schemes, and will increase the fund availability of the government,” Bharathi says.

“If there is legally no way to hoard wealth, then why would people steal or indulge in corruption? If the efforts put in to earn wealth by unfair means end up in vain, then I don’t think anyone would engage in corruption,” she says. She also adds that such measures would help eradicate segregation in the society.

Political past

Bharathi Kannamma’s interest in politics was piqued when she was in college. “It was around the time I was studying BA (Economics) that I started developing an interest in politics. I read about Socrates’ political philosophy, and started practising it. This is the reason I have lasted so long in politics. I wanted to be the one who ‘came, saw, and conquered’. I motivated myself and worked towards this since a very young age,” Bharathi says.

She made her first foray into politics in 2011, when she filed nomination papers to contest for the Mayor’s post in Madurai. However, her nomination was rejected by the electoral officer who had stated that a trans woman cannot contest in election. She approached the court after this and won an order against her rejection.

Between 2014 and 2019

“Over the past five years, the political awareness of the people has increased multifold,” Bharathi says. “People are realising that politics is not a bed of roses, but a carpet of thorns,” she says, pointing to the Jallikattu protest in 2017 and how that became a sensation and grabbed the attention of those in power, all due to the initiative taken by youngsters. “Just like the Jallikattu protests, the political arena is also a battlefield. I am proud and happy to be a part of this,” she adds.

Touching upon the various instances of religious polarisation happening in our country, Bharathi says that this was also one reason for her deciding to file her nomination papers dressed up as a god. “Along with me were two more women, one dressed as a Muslim and one as a Christian. Religion is being misused in the country a lot these days and it must be reined in. To spread that awareness only we dressed up in the way we did and filed the nomination papers,” she explains.

Fighting for a social change

Bharathi wants the citizens of our country to consider politics as a career option and says that it will save the political fabric of the country and lead us to better times. “Just like how every parent is proud to say that their child is a doctor or engineer, parents must be proud to tell out loud that their child is a politician. Every household should have a politician,” she says, adding that it will be a true sign of political awareness reaching grass roots. “It is only because of the reluctance of common people that scoundrels have usurped the field (of politics),” she says.

She also credits her mother for everything she has earned at present. “When I came out as a trans woman to my mother when I was in college, she didn’t abandon me. On the contrary, she still treated me as her child and let me have my way in my education and life. She is no more now, but what she has done for me, I will continue to remember,” Bharathi Kannamma says.