The Nationalist Congress Party, led by former Union Minister Sharad Pawar, on Monday became the first political party in India to set up an independent LGBT cell. The party has thereby fulfilled the promise in its manifesto released ahead of the Maharashtra assembly elections held last year. The cell was formally launched by the state unit chief and Minister of Water Resources Jayant Patil and party MP Supriya Sule. The 13-member cell is headed by Priya Patil.
Patil told The Free Press Journal, ‘‘In Maharashtra, the LGBT group constitutes 10-12 per cent of the population. They are a neglected lot. Neither society nor the government takes care of their issues. Through this cell, the party will take up their issues and the initiative for equality, employment and their being brought into the mainstream.’’ The party had also promised to establish an LGBT welfare board if voted to power at the earliest, Patil said.
The NCP aims to address LGBT issues and bring them into the mainstream. Patil recalled that the NCP was the first to set up Yuvati (young women) cell and now, it had taken up the cause of justice for the LGBT.
NCP leader and Minister of Social Justice Dhananjay Munde said he would take the initiative at the government level for the formation of a LGBT Welfare Board on a mission mode and it would be affiliated to his department. ‘’The purpose of the LGBT cell is to solve their problems while the board will implement a slew of schemes for their development and welfare,’’ he noted.
Sule, who had taken the initiative for the formation of the cell, said, ‘‘We felt the LGBT community needs equal rights, so we set up a separate cell for them.’’ She informed that she had raised issues with regard to the rights of the LGBT community in the Lok Sabha and spoken about the rights of the transgenders and sought their inclusion in the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
Meanwhile, the NCP’s move was welcomed by Twitterati, with many calling it a "progressive" move and a sign of changing times.
Twitter user Gay Lores said, ‘‘Woohoo, Winds they are changing… #LGBT cell by NCP.’’ Another, Dr Mavin, tweeted, ‘‘This was entirely unexpected.’’
Rajul Mishra @mishra_rajul tweeted: ‘‘Finally some political party recognises the rights of LGBTQ+ community, hoping for a revolution in politics specifically on this agenda.”
Kazim Rizvi in a tweet said, ‘‘This is an amazing initiative by the NCP. Credit due where it's deserved. Adopting a more inclusive approach to politics is the way forward, and I hope other parties follow suit.’’