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On the Campaign Trail/A Ganesh Nadar in Bhopal
November 26, 2003
The assembly election in Madhya Pradesh is a straight fight between the BJP and Congress. There are the inevitable independents in the fray but none perhaps as colourful as Suraiya Nayak.
Suraiya is a eunuch.
After studying up to the eighth standard, this Bhopal native "did what all eunuchs do."
"I go to houses when a child is born and bless the infant. We take part in most festivals celebrated in this area," she says.
When someone poor falls sick Suraiya says she gives them money for medicines. She says she has also paid the fees for poor students, and given money to poor girls to marry.
"I have the money and no family so I help people when I can. I like to help people. My life will be a success only if I help others," she says.
The public asked her to stand as a candidate, she says. "They are fed up with politicians. Everyone of them is corrupt. Nobody does anything for the public. They feel I can do something," she says, adding that she doesn't need to be corrupt because she has no family for whom she has to build material assets.
Suraiya is a candidate for the Bhopal North assembly seat.
Everyone in the constituency recognizes her, perhaps because she is a eunuch, and perhaps because she has visited every lane in this city.
Suraiya has also launched a political party, the JJP.
Jeethi Jeethayee Politics.
The politics of winning, that is.
All politicians want to win but she is the only one whose party's name makes it obvious.
She is also the only candidate in this election who tells us how much money she is spending on her campaign. She has a budget of Rs 200,000, she declares, adding that the public will help if she needs more money.
Every day from 9 to 5 she goes from house to house asking for votes with about 25 people in tow, including other eunuchs and some enthusiastic boys.
Suraiya has three cars fitted with loudspeakers which also travel around the constituency canvassing support. Her symbol is a book. "I will do what the people ask me to do," she says when we ask about her plans if she is elected. "If they want a tap for water I will get it done. If they want a road I will get it done. If they want a temple I will build it. I can build a mosque and church too. We eunuchs are beyond religion. All religions are the same to us."
She lives in a house in a narrow lane of Bhopal. It is a colourful house with a courtyard at the centre. She lives on the ground floor with 12 'chelas (disciples)' and has rented out the first floor. She hands over her calling card. It is a colourful card with the sea in the background and clouds on the horizon. It has her phone numbers. A landline and, yes, a mobile too.
Photograph: A Ganesh Nadar. Image: Uday Kuckian