Chennai: It will certainly be a rarity in Indian elections if two celebrity transgenders are given seats by their respective parties to contest in the April 13 Tamil Nadu assembly elections and they manage to beat their opponents.
Kalki Subramanian and Rose Venkatesan are in the opposite political camps with the former a DMK party aspirant and the latter hoping for a DMDK ticket.
Their camps may be different but their goals remain one -- to work for bringing the transgender community into the mainstream and provide them a decent livelihood with suitable vocational training.
'Political representation is the best route for the welfare of minority communities like transgenders,' Rose told IANS when asked about the reason for such political aspirations.
Asked whether she would represent the transgender community after undergoing a sex change operation to become a woman last year, she said: 'First I am an Indian, then a Tamilian, then a woman of transgender origin.'
Rose and Kalki are clear about their agenda when they would get to contest the elections and win them.
'I will push for free education for transgender children and adequate employment opportunity for the community,' said Rose, an aspirant for DMDK's Karur constituency.
'I will also push for government financial assistance for families having transgender children. This will to some extend prevent them from turning out their transgender child,' she said.
Kalki, who wants to contest for Pollachi constituency, said: 'I will make the state's transgender welfare board more active. There should be an educational institution for transgender children.'
'I will also focus on providing livelihood training for transgenders,' she added.
Kalki said as a legislator she would also focus on campaigning nationwide for gender identity for transgenders in education and employment.
'I will focus my energies on having laws on children who have gender identification problem,' Kalki said.
Both of them declare that they will not be a legislator for just the transgender community alone.
Educationally well-qualified, both Rose and Kalki articulate their views very well and forcefully.
Rose is a mechanical engineer with a master's degree in biomedical engineering from the Louisiana Tech University in the US. She has hosted television shows for Vijay TV and Kalaignar TV.
Kalki -- the founder and director of the Sahodari Foundation that works for social and economic empowerment of transgenders -- is a double post-graduate degree holder.
She is also the first Asian transgender activist to be invited to take part in the International Visitors' Leadership Programme (IVLP) held in the US last year.
Agreeing that contesting elections are a costly affair, Kalki and Rose are hoping to get support from their well wishers.
Rose said: 'I have been assured support by several well-to-do well wishers if I get the party's nod to contest from Karur.'
As to why she chose to join DMDK, she said: 'The DMK did not support the transgender community in right earnest. The government set up a welfare board for transgenders only after a case was decided in our favour by the Madras High Court.'
According to her, the government found that the transgender community could be a vote bank and took some actions like the formation of welfare board.
'On the other hand, the AIADMK government had given appointment orders for three transgenders. Now DMDK is in alliance with the AIADMK and I am confident that more action will be taken for the minority community,' Rose said.
Kalki's father is an active DMK person and her cousin was the party's candidate for the Pollachi constituency last time.
According to Kalki, it was the DMK government which is doing a lot for the transgender community like the issuance of ration card, formation of welfare board and also declaring April 17 as the transgender day.
She said Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi, Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin and MP Kanimozhi are genuinely interested in transgender welfare.
About their family's reaction to their decision, Kalki said: 'We design our own destiny. Having said that my family members are supportive of my decision.'
She said her family has always been supportive of the DMK party.
For Rose, if she gets the DMDK ticket and wins the elections it could be a turning point for her personally as her family might accept her back.
After her sex change operation, she has been living separately as her family was not able to cope with the fact.
'I visit my family regularly. They are positive about my decision to contest the elections,' she said.