Battle between lawyer and a politician in Mumbai North Central

The BJP had a tough time in dropping sitting MP Poonam Mahajan, who is the daughter of party veteran late Pramod Mahajan, and find a suitable nominee to tighten its grip on the constituency….writes Sanjay Jog

Although the BJP and Congress are engaged in a fight for supremacy in Mumbai North Central, it is being portrayed as a contest between high-profile lawyer Ujjwal Nikam, and a professor-turned-politician Varsha Gaikwad.

While Ujjwal Nikam was the Public Prosecutor in the high-profile Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks case, Varsha Gaikwad is a former Cabinet minister and a four-term Legislator from Asia’s largest slum Dharavi.

The BJP had a tough time in dropping sitting MP Poonam Mahajan, who is the daughter of party veteran late Pramod Mahajan, and find a suitable nominee to tighten its grip on the constituency.

After Mumbai unit chief and Bandra West Legislator Ashish Shelar conveyed to the BJP leadership not to consider him for nomination, names like actress Madhuri Dixit and singer Anuradha Paudwal were doing the rounds.

Ultimately the party zeroed in on Nikam and pitted him against Gaikwad.

Though he started a bit late, Nikam is reaching out to the voters and projecting the Modi government’s achievements to curb terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and in border areas and also its track record in protecting India’s interests while dealing with neighbouring countries such as China, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

He also tells the voters that although politics is not his domain, the Constitution, law and nation are supreme for him.

Nikam refutes charges of being an outsider and anti-Muslim, saying that a person who resolves to work for national interests is never restricted by geographical boundaries.

He further clarifies that he never felt the need to look at the religion of those who tried to attack the Indian Constitution, law and nation and to challenge national security.

On the other hand, Gaikwad, who was initially unhappy over the Congress party’s decision to leave the Mumbai South Central seat to Shiv Sena (UBT), hopes to regain the Congress’ lost glory in the constituency.

This is because Gaikwad represents Dharavi seat which is a part of Mumbai South Central.

The Mumbai North Central was earlier represented by the Congress in 1984, 1991, 2004 (by her father Eknath Gaikwad defeating former Chief Minister Manohar Joshi) and in 2009.

However, the BJP won the seat in 2014 and 2019 elections riding on the ‘Modi wave’.

The Shiv Sena had represented the constituency in 1989 and 1999. Gaikwad is cashing in on the strong support from Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray in particular, who recently announced that he would vote for the first time for the Congress party’s ‘Hand’ symbol.

She is approaching the electorate seeking votes to save the Constitution and democracy and reservation for SCs, STs and Tribals.

Gaikwad and the Congress had a tough time in pacifying former minister Naseem Khan who quit as the party’s star campaigner after he did not get the nomination from Mumbai North Central.

However, Gaikwad heaved a sigh of relief after Khan withdrew his resignation following intervention from senior party leader Rahul Gandhi.

Khan’s involvement now in the campaign has been a major booster dose for Gaikwad.

The constituency has a mixed population of elite colonies and slums.

There are 17,44,128 voters comprising 9,41,288 males and 9,02,775 females. Of these voters, 38 per cent are Marathi speaking people, 22 per cent Muslims and 18-20 per cent are North Indians.

The BJP is quite optimistic about getting maximum support from the Marathi speaking voters and North and South Indians while Gaikwad hopes to get backing from Marathi speaking voters due to Shiv Sena (UBT)’s strong Shakha network and also from Muslims and other minorities.

Of the six Assembly constituencies, the BJP has two legislators in Vile Parle and Bandra East while Chandivali and Kurla are represented by Shiv Sena, Kalina by Shiv Sena (UBT) and Bandra East by the Congress.

Nikam hopes to consolidate his position considering the Mahayuti’s strength in the constituency while Gaikwad is hopeful of winning the seat riding on Uddhav Thackeray’s sympathy wave and the Maha Vikas Aghadi’s organisational strength.

Nikam and Gaikwad are promising a major makeover of the constituency, especially in the wake of mushrooming realty development.

However, the delayed redevelopment of slums adjacent to the Mumbai International Airport, rehabilitation of the displaced people and traffic jams on the LBS Marg are some of the critical issues prevalent in the constituency.



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