Elections

Hawk Among Predators: Ujjwal Nikam, Mumbai's Most Celebrated Lawyer, Enters The Big Poll Picture

Ujjwal Nikam was awarded the Padma Shri in 2016 for fighting the country’s longest and most prominent terror cases including the 1993 Bombay bomb blasts and the 26/11 terror attacks

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Ujjwal Nikam, BJP candidate for Mumbai North Central Lok Sabha Seast constituency Photo: Getty Images
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Mumbai’s most celebrated lawyer Ujjwal Nikam, famous for getting terrorists, gangsters and high-profile criminals convicted to death sentences and life imprisonment, discarded his black robe in favour of BJP’s saffron scarf. Nikam retired from the role of public prosecutor in April and took up BJP’s ticket as a candidate from Mumbai’s North Central Lok Sabha constituency.

The ruling BJP-Shiv Sena-NCP (Ajit faction) alliance announced his nomination replacing two-time BJP MP Poonam Mahajan after a long delay and hectic discussions. He was pitted against Mumbai Congress chief and MLA Varsha Gaikwad from the constituency covering Bandra West, Bandra East, Ville Parle and Chandivli areas of Western suburb.

The Jalgaon-born lawyer was awarded the Padma Shri in 2016 for his astounding success and fighting the country’s longest and most prominent terror cases including the 1993 Bombay bomb blasts and the 26/11 terror attacks. The BJP projected him as a candidate who delivered justice by punishing the anti-nationals. He even centred his poll campaign around terrorism and security – issues that are highly sensitive and traumatic among Mumbaikars.

Nikam said he was not fighting the Lok Sabha elections for any political gain but because of the Modi government’s strong record in fighting Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and prioritising national security. He attributed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, national security advisor Ajit Doval and former Chief Minister of the state Devendra Fadnavis, for getting David Coleman Headley to depose in the 26/11 trial. Headley’s statement revealed information based on which we could prove that Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamat-ud-Dawah and ISI worked hand in gloves, and put Pakistan in a tight spot, he said.

Although a novice in politics, Nikam is an expert speaker who thrives on fame and public attention and is therefore seen fit for the next innings in politics. The ruling parties of the state government, be it the Congress-led UPA or the BJP-led NDA have particularly sought his appointment as a public prosecutor in headline-grabbing criminal cases and demanded harshest punishment. His success in the courtroom especially in complex cases lacking direct evidence can be attributed to the technique of getting the accused to turn approver. Nikam has frequently described this tactic as "setting a thief to catch a thief." He has secured 628 life imprisonment and 38 death penalties including the lone surviving 26/11 terror accused Pakistan’s Ajmal Kasab.

Nikam has built his popularity as a public prosecutor and become a household name, thanks to his media briefings. While arguing on behalf of the state during the 26/11 trial, he told journalists waiting in the court premises, that Kasab demanded mutton biryani in prison. He later admitted that he concocted the lie to ‘break an emotional wave” generated in the favour of the perpetrator.

No other public prosecutor has the reputation of being the chosen one among the ruling government, other political parties, top cops and the media as much as Nikam. It supersedes his aggressive, shrewd and petty conduct, said a journalist who has covered the court beat for more than a decade.

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