Divergent campaigns of local and national issues mark campaigning in Mumbai North Central LS seat

Ujjwal Nikam, a prominent lawyer, is highlighting national issues by relying on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s persona, while Dharavi MLA Varsha Gaikwad of the Congress is banking on local issues

Published - May 18, 2024 05:47 am IST - MUMBAI

Mumbai North Central Lok Sabha candidate Ujjwal Nikam in Mumbai on April 27.

Mumbai North Central Lok Sabha candidate Ujjwal Nikam in Mumbai on April 27. | Photo Credit: PTI

With four days left for the fifth and final phase of the Lok Sabha election in Maharashtra, candidates from the Mahayuti and Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliances in the Mumbai North Central constituency are in top gear ahead of polling.

They have been conducting rallies and campaigning vigorously in Bandra, Vile Parle, Chandivali, Kalina, and Kurla in the city to sway voters with their poll promises. BJP’s Ujjwal Nikam is highlighting national issues and relying on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s track record, while Congress’s Varsha Gaikwad, four-time MLA from Asia’s largest slum-cluster Dharavi, is canvassing support with local issues as a focal point.

During his rallies and ‘Know Your MP’ segment speeches, Mr. Nikam, a known figure in legal circles who served as a government counsel in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks case, was seen talking about the Prime Minister’s vision for the country, national security, comments by Congress leader Vijay Wadettiwar on the 26/11 attacks, and legislative efforts in India.

“Congress is setting a fake narrative by constantly spewing lies that the ‘Ab ki baar 400 paar’ (This time, we will cross 400 seats) slogan intends to change the Constitution, but it is not. They should not play with the country’s reputation,” he told The Hindu during a campaign trail in Kurla.

A voter said: “Both [candidates] are new to us. We came to hear Mr. Nikam vouch for the PM. Also, he has fought in court for our country’s good and if he wins, will represent the PM in our constituency. So, he deserves a chance.”

On the other hand, Ms. Gaikwad, while unveiling her manifesto, said: “I have come across residents’ issues, had detailed discussions with them and I have come up with a roadmap based on these suggestions.”

With a three-step plan through her Nyay manifesto, she aims to improve open spaces, prevent the cutting of trees, rejuvenate the airport funnel zone, increase local transportation, address unfair Goods and Services Tax (GST) on housing societies, and tackle pollution.

Both the candidates were announced with just a month’s time in hand for campaigning. Mr. Nikam is a fresh entrant to politics, while Ms. Gaikwad is canvassing support in a new constituency.

Mumbai South Central Lok Sabha constituency has Dharavi Assembly seat falling under and it is also Ms. Gaikwad’s home turf. However, the Dalit leader and Mumbai Congress president got the nomination for the North Central parliamentary seat and is looking to carry forward the legacy of her father, late Eknath Rao Gaikwad who won this seat in 2004.

One common point on which they have been wooing the voters is what Prime Ministers from their respective parties accomplished during their tenure. Mr. Nikam thrives on PM Modi’s persona, while Ms. Gaikwad has been reiterating the decisions made by former Prime Ministers Dr. Manmohan Singh, Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, and Jawaharlal Nehru during their stint.

For the ongoing polls, Mr. Nikam has replaced incumbent MP Poonam Mahajan, daughter of late BJP leader and former Union Minister Pramod Mahajan. Ms. Mahajan defeated then MP Priya Dutt, daughter of late actor and Congress leader Sunil Dutt, in the 2014 and 2019 parliamentary elections riding on the wave created after Mr. Modi came to power. Ms. Dutt is now canvassing for Ms. Gaikwad.

Of the six Lok Sabha seats that are going to the polls on May 20 in Mumbai, Ms. Gaikwad is the only woman candidate contesting from the MVA. “Out of six seats, one woman receiving a ticket for contesting to enter Lok Sabha is a big achievement. We are sure she will win, and her winning means our problems getting raised in Parliament. She comes from the grassroots level, knows the issues faced by women and Dalits. It is an access point for us,” said Samya Korde, an activist from Dharavi.

“Varsha Gaikwad has been involved in slum rehabilitation projects. There are so many places in dilapidated condition. We need someone to take up these issues. I believe she can help us with it,” said Anandini Thakoor, a resident of Khar Road, in Mumbai.

Mumbai North Central constituency consists of a multi-religious and cultural population from all walks of life — be it slum dwellers or film stars. According to Election Commission data, the constituency has 17.1 lakh voters. The seat has North Indian, Gujarati, Rajasthani, South Indian, and Christian voters, with a substantial presence of Dalit and Muslim communities among the electorate.

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