TN urban polls: Ganga Nayak, transgender candidate from DMK, wins seat in Vellore

The 49-year-old, who has been a part of the DMK for 20 years, was nominated by the party and won in ward 37 in the Vellore corporation.
Ganga Nayak in a yellow and red saree with folded hands
Ganga Nayak in a yellow and red saree with folded hands

In a big win for the trans community, Ganga Nayak, a transgender candidate, has won a seat in the Tamil Nadu urban local body polls from Vellore. Counting is still underway in several wards across districts in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday, February 22. So far, Ganga Nayak is the only candidate from the transgender community in Tamil Nadu to have won a seat in the 2022 urban local body polls.

The 49-year-old was nominated by the ruling DMK. She has been a DMK member for the last 20 years. On Tuesday, as the results came in, Ganga was declared the winning candidate in ward 37 in the Vellore Municipal Corporation. She is a Vellore-based social worker and serves as the secretary of the South India Transgender Association.

Ganga was born to parents who worked as daily wage workers in Vellore. Over the years, she has gained recognition with her social work and her drama troupe, which employs 50 members, including 30 transgender persons. During the pandemic, Ganga and her drama troupe held awareness campaigns across Vellore and other districts such as Ranipet, Kancheepuram, Thiruvallur and Thiruvannamalai.

The Tamil Nadu urban local body elections were held after a span of 11 years, to fill 12,838 seats in 21 municipal corporations, 138 municipalities and 490 town panchayats. However, this time around, it wasn’t just the DMK which announced trans candidates for the polls. Both the BJP and AIADMK too fielded transgender candidates. A total of 15 trans persons have contested the urban local body polls this year, many of whom stood as independents

The AIADMK nominated Jayadevi, a transgender candidate to contest from ward 112 in the Teynampet zone of the Chennai Corporation. Jayadevi has been an AIADMK member for the last 15 years. Meanwhile, the BJP announced trans candidate Rajamma from ward 76 of the Thiru Vi Ka Nagar Zone in the Chennai Corporation.

Speaking to TNM, trans activist Grace Banu says that there is a slow but definite change in the outlook of political parties. “They are attempting to ensure trans representation in politics,” she says.

In 2021, the DMK nominated transgender candidate Riya for the rural local body polls from Namakkal district. The 30-year-old won from ward 2 in Karuveppamppati near Tiruchengode town in Namakkal. She won by a margin of 950 votes, becoming the first trans candidate to win in the rural local body polls in the state. She was later elected Panchayat Union Councillor.

According to Grace, despite being party members for decades, many trans persons have had to wait long to even get their due in the party. “For instance, Ganga has been a DMK member for 20 years. But only now has she got a nomination to contest in the local body polls,” Grace adds.

Local body representation is the first step, but Grace prays that parties don’t stop with this. “There should be trans representation in the Legislative Assembly and Lok Sabha. We want our people to become MLAs and MPs. Right now, trans rights are not given much attention as the political circles are dominated by cis people,” Grace explains. She adds that a good way to secure trans representation is to reserve wards or areas for transgender candidates, Grace adds, just like how DMK reserved wards for women candidates and candidates from the SC/ST community for this election. 

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