Ujjwal Nikam replaces Poonam Mahajan for Mumbai North Central Lok Sabha seat. Why BJP dropped the two-term MP?

  • Ujjwal Nikam, 71, is a well-known public prosecutor and was a government counsel in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case. Among other cases, Nikam has also handled the 2006 murder of BJP leader Pramod Mahajan – Poonam Mahajan’s late father.

Gulam Jeelani
Updated28 Apr 2024, 01:12 PM IST
Mumbai: BJP candidate from Mumbai (North) seat Ujjwal Nikam being welcomed by party workers, in Mumbai, Saturday night, April 27, 2024. (PTI Photo) (PTI04_28_2024_000016B)
Mumbai: BJP candidate from Mumbai (North) seat Ujjwal Nikam being welcomed by party workers, in Mumbai, Saturday night, April 27, 2024. (PTI Photo) (PTI04_28_2024_000016B)(PTI)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has dropped incumbent Lok Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) Poonam Mahajan as its Mumbai North Central seat candidate. The saffron party has, instead, fielded well-known lawyer Ujjwal Nikam from the seat.

Nikam, 71, is a household name in the legal circles and was a government counsel in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case. Among other cases, Nikam has also handled the 2006 murder of BJP leader Pramod Mahajan – Poonam Mahajan’s late father. Poonam, 43, was elected from the seat in 2014 and 2019 elections. She is also a former president of the BJP's youth wing. 

With Nikam's candidature, the saffron party has dropped all its MPs from Mumbai for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The two other dropped MPs are Manoj Kotak from Mumbai North East and Gopal Shetty from Mumbai North. While Kotak is a first-time MP, Shetty is a party veteran and two-time MP.  

Also Read: BJP candidate Madhavi Latha slams Asaduddin Owaisi, says AIMIM is ‘asking people to slaughter cows’

But why was Poonam Mahajan, a two-term MP dropped?

Surveys didn't favour Poonam

Dropping sitting MP’s is, perhaps, in line with BJP’s pan-India strategy of fielding new faces in pursuance of its 370-seat target for the seven-phase general elections. With two phases over, five more phases of elections are to be held. The results will be announced on June 4.

In Poonam Mahajan’s case, speculations suggested that she would not be fielded this time, even before the official announcement on April 27. Many say the party’s internal surveys didn’t favour her candidature, especially due to her anti-incumbency during her last two terms as MP.

Some reports suggested that the party was in two minds over Poonam Mahajan, hence the delayed announcement. One faction, said sources, wanted to field Poonam; the other faction was against it.

“The Mumbai and Maharashtra BJP units had recommended the candidature of Poonam. But then the final call is taken after deliberations at the Central Election Committee (CEC),” Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar was quoted as saying by Indian Express.

Also Read: 'Was against an alliance with AAP': Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh Lovely resigns

Poonam Mahajan won the Mumbai North Central twice in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls. She defeated Priya Dutt, daughter of veteran actor-turned-politician and Congress leader Sunil Dutt, in both elections by a good margin.

Ujwal Nikam, a Maratha face

The official announcement of Brahmin face Poonam’s replacement Ujjwal Nikam, came 48 hours after the Congress fielded its Mumbai chief Varsha Gaikwad as the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) candidate from the Mumbai North Central.

The Mumbai North Central seat will vote in the fifth phase of Lok Sabha elections on May 20.

Some reports suggest that the party fielded Nikam, a Marathi candidate, to strike a balance. It has already fielded two non-Marathis — Piyush Goyal (Mumbai North) and Mihir Kotecha (Mumbai East) from two of the six seats in Mumbai.

Also Read: Can Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal cast vote in Lok Sabha Polls on May 25? Here's what the law says

With Nikam, the BJP has announced candidates for three seats in Mumbai. The Shiv Sena led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has announced Rahul Shewale for Mumbai South Central. It is yet to announce candidates for Mumbai South and Mumbai North West

After two wins in the past two elections, Poonam became a high-profile next-generation BJP politician in Maharashtra. Often lauded for her ability to speak in the Lok Sabha both in English and Hindi, Poonam was asked to lead the BJP’s national youth wing in 2016.

Poonam’s replacement also raises a question mark on the political legacy of late father Pramod Mahajan, former Union minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Soon after Nikam's candidature, Poonam thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for giving her the opportunity ‘to serve’ the seat as an MP for 10 years. 

“My role model, my father Late Pramod Mahajan Ji showed me the path of 'Nation first, then us'. I pray to God that I can follow the same path throughout my life,” she said in a post on X. 

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First Published:28 Apr 2024, 01:12 PM IST
HomePoliticsNewsUjjwal Nikam replaces Poonam Mahajan for Mumbai North Central Lok Sabha seat. Why BJP dropped the two-term MP?

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