Gulshan Bindu Rides the Cycle

Hanging out with transgender mayoral candidate from Ayodhya, even as it doesn’t look quite like the perfect (lotus) storm this elections season

The Samajwadi Party is fielding transgender candidate Gulshan Bindu, in the upcoming civic bodies polls

Last time she did this, it was 2012; U.P. was in the midst of a buzzing Lok Sabha election maelstrom, and she had managed to rake in almost 11.5% of the total vote count. Alone.

Kinnar Gulshan Bindu chauthve sthaan par (Eunuch Gulshan Bindu secures fourth position)’, read the news reports, and you could almost read the disbelief between the lines. This was an unprecedented victory of sorts after all – because not only had she struck hard, Gulshan Bindu had struck indie.

It was almost a wonder then that we did not see or hear her this year, when the state went to polls in what turned out to be an even more definitive Assembly elections – and one in which only one party mattered.

But perhaps the kings of 2012 were waiting out their time; now that they’ve spent a few moments licking their wounds and patching up family feuds, perhaps they’re ready for the fight.

The nagar palika chunaav season has turned out to be just perfect timing then. The Samajwadi Party scouted out the one (and only?) person who had managed the

impossible – given the BJP sleepless nights by giving Vijay Gupta a good run for his money in the 2012 urban bodies polls, when they both hedged their bets for a shot at the post of Chairman in Faizabad. And Gulshan Bindu had aced a close second.

Originally from Sitamarhi – another karmabhoomi for the faithful, known as the birthplace of Sita – she was born in Delhi, and handed over to the kinnar samaaj at the age of five by her family, fed up with taunts from neighbours and relatives. It was here that she was given the name Gulshan Bindu – a name that she owned, which has since given her more than a few chances at occupying seats of power. Her followers often drop ‘Gulshan’, and refer to her as ‘Bindu’, or ‘Bindu-ji’.

She often plays the one-up game on Ayodhya versus Sitamarhi, alluding especially to the current U.P.  Chief Minister who as Gorakhpur chief mahant, holds the former very dear, as we’ve all noticed by now. “I am from Sita maiyyaa’s birthplace, and Sita has to ultimately settle in her sasuraal, so I’m at home,” she often says, cheekily, suggesting that she’s won Ayodhya already.

“Ram rajya ke kinnar”, is the term, Gulshan informs us, reminding us of the deep mythic connection between eunuchs and Maryada Purshottam himself: When he had asked the men and women following him to exile to return to the kingdom, those who had not aligned themselves with those gender identities, had waited for him, at the same spot, for 14 long years.

But this is not all that makes Gulshan special. Her work as a social activist is the stuff of local parlance on the streets of Faizabad. From organizing blood donation camps and taking over hospital renovations, to distribution of blankets for the homeless, Gulshan is not an unfamiliar face. The local kinnar community in fact often mock-complains that she is someone not too interested in the traditional means of earning money. Her stints in politics have drawn the likes of transgender celebrities such as Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, who famously campaigned for her last time, and still comes up in conversations, because Tripathi, an upper-caste eunuch had just come out of “Bigg Boss ka ghar”. The most wanted kinnar selfies in Faizabad though, are with Gulshan Bindu – locals and tourists alike.

But Gulshan’s dreams are even bigger. With a ticket in hand now, courtesy the new (and improved?) SP baying for blood, aching for a win, Gulshan Bindu might just have a shot this time around. And with the party in absolute power relying on divisive tactics – what with the C.M. deriding secularism in speeches, and M.P.’s issuing threats to minorities in the name of prachaar – her campaign mantra might just stick. It’s a catchy one, after all – ‘Na Musalman, Na Hindu. Is Baar, Gulshan Bindu’.