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What is the the possibility of advancement of LGBTQ People in mainstream Politics in India? Or what is the realistic possibility of the mainstream political parties engaging meaningfully with LGBT issues and concerns? These are important questions for the community. I am writing this in light of the recent meeting of Rahul Gandhi with reps of various constituencies including LGBT.

We have in our country what is called the first past the post system in which if a person wins even one more vote than the nearest competitor he or she wins the election. This means that in a crowded field, people with votes from as low as 10% of the voters have actually won elections whereafter they have gone on to represent 100% of the voters. In such a system vote banks become very important because other than the committed voters, who’d vote for a candidate anyways (eg. Bhakts will vote for BJP even if BJP wants to kill them), a vote bank means that small group of extra votes that would push the candidate over the victory line. However in this scheme of things, the fact is that the LGBT population in India is dispersed over the constituencies in such a manner that in no single constituency, the number of LGBT people by themselves constitute a vote bank. Therefore while it may be important for political leaders (like Rahul Gandhi or Tharoor) to burnish their own progressive credentials and image by associating themselves with LGBT people, or tokenistically talking to a few “representatives of the community”, as an important voting block or as vote bank, we are not important to any political party as long as the first past the post system exists. This is the hard fact.

This means that political parties can ignore us, even if they pander to us before an election. We have seen that happen in the past. In spite of all their Big Talks, Congress did NOTHING… yes IT DID NADA… to get rid of 377 from IPC even when it had the numbers. It only did sweet talk for accolades in the UN and other such forms. In fact its members did not even turn up when the bill brought about by Shashi Tharoor was presented to Parliament.Which brings us to the question of what about queer/LGBT individuals progressing within the political system or rising in the ranks of politics, by joining any/various political parties. Well, that is certainly possible. However because of the equation that I mentioned in the paragraph above, we must understand that that individual can progress either because of his merit and/or because he is engaged with issues that are important to some or the other vote bank and would get him or her the votes of said vote bank and help him or her to win in an election. But since LGBT people do not constitute a vote bank anywhere, that person cannot engage with LGBT issues and hope to win.

In other words no matter what the show that someone is making of engaging with LGBT issues, the fact is that for winnability and for votes, LGBT issues are just not important enough to either individuals or to parties and that they can and often do therefore ignore LGBT people/issues. And that is why, in India, the only way LGBT rights can progress is by using the way of litigation, and through the courts.

And if LGBT people want to have an actual say in the political setup that is meaningful, they should start demanding and agitating for a proportional representative form of government from the present first past the post system.

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Aditya Bondyopadhyay

Aditya Bondyopadhyay is a lawyer based in DElhi and works for the rights of all sexual/gender minorities in India and South Asia. He directs Adhikaar, an LGBTQ Rights organisation based in Delhi