(This article was originally published on 1 December 2022 and is being reshared as AAP candidate Bobi Kinnar wins MCD election from Sultanpur-A ward.)
“People in my constituency say that they’ve given both men and women a chance but this time they want to give me a chance,” said 38-year-old Bobi Kinnar, who identifies as a transgender.
She has been fielded by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for the upcoming Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections from Sultanpur Majra ward A in northwest Delhi.
On 29 November, The Quint followed Bobi’s election campaign as she went from lane to lane greeting residents. What are her plans for the ward? How did she get into politics? Is her candidature tokenistic?
How Have Residents Responded?
On a balmy Monday afternoon, as Bobi got ready to hit the streets, AAP’s MCD election jingle MCD Mein Bhi Kejriwa echoed through the streets of Sultanpuri's Loha Mandi and Harijan Basti.
In 2017, AAP’s Sanjeev Kumar had won the seat. Now residents are curious to know who the new AAP candidate is. “AAP has won from here in this past and it can win this time too. People in the area are more concerned about the parties rather than the candidates,” said a woman, who was a part of Bobi’s campaign entourage.
Bobi is not a new face in the area. In the 2017 MCD elections, she ran as an independent candidate. She is also a social worker who has worked to uplift people with disabilities and women. She has already worked towards educating children.
The area is lined with open drains and potholes, and this is an immediate concern for the residents. “If I win, my first goal will be to work on cleanliness and beautification. There is so much garbage on the roads and in the parks, and there are open drains. I want to make the roads better as this would beautify the area and make it more convenient for residents.” said Bobi.
Rajesh Kumar, 53, who runs a small tea stall, watched the campaign go past his shop. He told The Quint, “People have been talking about Bobi being a transgender but I don’t care. I think she is a good candidate. I know that she has been doing social work for many years.”
Kumar said that a few months ago his tea stall with a thatched roof was mowed down by local agencies. “To me, all that matters is that a good candidate who understands the residents gets elected,” he said.
Bobi stepped out for the campaign dressed in a salwar-kameez, a white coat and a cap with the party name on it. There were around 100 people who walked with her, including party workers and supporters. The party workers shouted slogans such as ‘Jharoo ka button dabao’.
As she walked through the lanes of Sultanpur Majra, most welcomed her wholeheartedly while others commented on her transgender identity in hushed tones. Unperturbed, Bobi continued to do what she set out for –build people’s trust in her.
From Social Work to Politics
Bobi has been associated with the AAP since the Anna Hazare movement of 2011. “In 2017, I received a lot of support as an independent candidate in Sultanpur Majra. This time the party gave me a ticket because I have been a social worker for 15 years,” said Bobi. In recent years, she has helped underprivileged children with their educational expenses.
But why does the 10-point party manifesto – which speaks of beautification, making MCD corruption-free, and making Delhi landfill-free, among other promises – makes no mention of the LGBTQIA community?
When asked if she would want to change this, Bobi said, “It is already changing. The party has given me so much respect and responsibility... That is proof that things are changing already. I will always urge my community to come forward, work hard, and make us proud.”
Regarding transphobic comments made by politicians across party lines, she said, “Everyone has their own thought process. I cannot change the way someone thinks overnight. But I know that I will continue to work for society. That is my only goal.”
Poonam, 42, a close friend of Bobi and a resident of the area, said, “People look up to her and fondly refer to her as ‘Mousi’ or ‘Bobi Didi’. They all love her. Once she succeeds, she will stop at nothing – she will aim to be an MLA next.”
'I Still Face Transphobia but Things are Changing'
As Bobi prepared for the campaign at her office in Sultanpuri, workers and supporters surrounded her with questions and doubts. She looked into every micro-detail – how many people are traveling and how, how many flags are going inside every vehicle, and which spots they would be covering in the day.
Did she always think this is how life will turn out at 38? No.
Bobi’s birth parents abandoned her as a child in Delhi, and she grew up among a community of transgender persons. “Everyone knows how much we have to struggle because of our gender. Growing up, people would refer to me as ‘kinnar’ and ‘hijra’. I always wanted to help people. I have seen orphans, children who have to beg for money… This is why I entered the world of social work,” said Bobi.
Not long after this, she worked with AAP when the Anna movement began.
Her friend Poonam said, “We all know that she is capable of great things but when she decided to run, she told me ‘dekho didi, aaj bhi log taana maarte hai’ (Look, even today, people make comments). But despite that, she is here today. And the public outlook is changing slowly.”
Bobi said, “The transphobia is still there and people have accepted me because I am a social worker. They trust me and my work.”
Talking about work, cleanliness and improving conditions of roads and drainage is Bobi’s priority. “Apart from this, there are problems such as the pension of many elderly people has been stuck for years. I want to help release it. And yes, I will work for the transgender community too but I will work first for the betterment of all,” said Bobi, as she wrapped up a day of campaigning.
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