Chitrapu Pushpita Laya is said to be the “first trans person” to be fielded by a mainstream political party for the Assembly election in Telangana.
The 33-year-old Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate, a resident of the Priyadarshini Colony in Ramannapet of Warangal, is contesting from the Warangal East constituency.
Busy with door-to-door campaigning in the constituency, Laya shared details about her life in Delhi, where she worked at a call centre.
After completing her intermediate from a Warangal college, she went to Delhi. “I worked there at a call centre. I had to even beg at traffic signals to make ends meet,” Laya told South First.
Laya is contesting on a ticket from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is helmed by retired IPS officer RS Praveen Kumar in Telangana. “Even there [in Delhi] I took up Bahujan ideology as I became a member of the BSP,” said Laya.
The young entrant into politics spoke to South First about her aspirations, issues with the constituency, and entering politics from the transgender community.
The only other transgender person contesting in the upcoming 30 November Assembly election is Maata Shree Jaanakamma, who is in the field as a candidate of the Rashtra Samanya Praja Party in the Jadcherla constituency in Mahabubnagar district.
To represent transgender community
Laya is happy to be a trailblazer and wishes for many more people to enter active politics to represent the transgender community and bring changes.
Asked about the changes she wished to see in the community, Laya said, “I wish our people don’t beg any more. They should be in every field, be it doctors, engineers, public servants, or anything else. Providing them with opportunities is important.
Laya also worked as the woman president of the Dr BR Ambedkar Association. “There, I worked for the upliftment of the women, to fight for their causes,” she said.
Speaking about the challenges she faced, Laya said, recalled humiliation and taunts from the start. “People — especially men — would try to put me down,” she said.
“Whenever I tried to take up a responsibility or do something, they would make it seem like I wouldn’t be able to,” she added.
Asked if she faced multifold stigma or faced additional hindrances belonging to two marginalised communities — Dalit and transgender — Laya said, “Not particularly.”
She added, “At a time when the trans community is facing humiliation, RS Praveen Kumar giving this ticket to me shows he believes in the upliftment of the marginalised in the true sense.”
She also said: “As for caste, again a Dalit person being at the top of the party (BSP) is a huge thing.”
Speaking about the acceptance of people of her constituency, Laya said, “People have been welcoming. They never discriminated against me based on caste. Instead, they wanted me — a child of the poor — to enter the Assembly to make a difference.”
She also said she was not depending on any particular vote bank to win the election. “Not only youth or women, everyone has been welcoming. We have everyone’s support,” she said.
Warangal East woes
Laya said that the main issues plaguing the Warangal East constituency were drainage in the residential areas and unemployment among the youth. “The youth are educated. Yet, they don’t have jobs,” she noted.
Criticising the sitting MLA, BRS leader Narender Nannapuneni, Laya said he had done nothing for the constituency. “The KCR government promised two-bedroom houses. Yet, most people weren’t given such houses,” she said.
“People belonging to marginalised categories — the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Backward Classes (BCs) — still live in in areas where there is garbage all around. Pigs roam around. Diseases galore,” she added.
“Did he become an MLA to serve people or accumulate money?” the BSP contestant asked of the sitting MLA.
Laya also highlighted the Azamzahi mill, where 14,000 workers were employed, but which is now closed.
She said the government had done nothing since 2014 to fill the void created by the closure of the mill, leading to further unemployment.
“Narender (Nannapuneni) and his followers have been doing kabza on the mill land. They start projects, do groundbreaking ceremonies, and then nothing happens,” she added.
Laya said that the first thing she would focus on if voted to power, apart from employment, was better living conditions for the marginalised.
Speaking about why she chose to contest on a BSP ticket, Laya said, “All other parties discriminate against women and gendered minorities. They don’t respect women.”
Giving an example, she said, “We have seen how the ruling BRS has been treating even the Governor, like how it speaks of her without considering her position.”
She claimed that all the other parties just use people like her to carry the flags, but never give them leadership positions.
“That is why I chose the BSP. It is a party that has always stood for women and marginalised people,” she said.
Laya also asserted that the party chief was a woman — Mayawati.
“This is not the first time the BSP has given a ticket to a trans person. It has one leader in West Bengal as well,” she added.
(The headline and text of this story has been changed to reflect the fact that CP Laya is not the first ever transperson to be fielded in Assembly polls in the Telugu states. Another transperson, Chandramukhi, was fielded in the 2018 Assembly election by Bahujan Left Front in the Goshamal constituency.)