He is a real estate developer by profession, has produced a Bollywood movie, and is part of Ramdas Athawale-led Republican Party of India (RPI). But many know Deepak Nikalje, 47, as the brother of fugitive gangster Chhota Rajan.
Nikalje, who lives in a 5,000 sqft bungalow and drives an Audi, is making his third attempt to become a legislator, this time with the support of the BJP. He is contesting from Chembur assembly, which has a mixed population of Maharashtrians, south Indians, and Sindhis.
There are 10 candidates in the fray, but the contest is between former minister and Congress candidate Chandrakant Handore, Shiv Sena corporator candidate Prakash Phatarpekar and Nikalje.
Nikalje, who has consciously stayed away from the world of crime, claims all he is asked about is his brother. “Is it a crime to be someone’s brother?” he said.
Fondly called ‘bhau’ by his supporters, Nikalje is soft spoken and doesn’t like to talk much even during campaigning.
“Bhau will win this time,” said one of his supporters, during a rally in Mahul village on Wednesday night. They are confident that the BJP’s support will help him sail through.
Even Nikalje is confident of his victory. “BJP leaders Hashu Advani and Pramod Shirvalkar have represented Chembur constituency for a long time. This time the BJP and RPI are allies, and there are many RPI and Ambedkar supporters in the area,” he said.
According to Nikalje, residents of Chembur are grappling with several issues such as bad roads, water supply, poor drainage system, slum redevelopment, among others. “Pollution is also a major concern. I am going to focus on it and promote planting of trees,” he said. However, there are factors that may go against the leader — division of Dalit votes, his family background, lack of familiarity in the constituency — say political analysts.