It’s a classic — and curious — case of a close friend turning a sworn foe. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee does have a long list of such cases, though.
But a clean break-up with her most trusted aide, Mukul Roy, could mean far reaching political implications not only for the TMC, but also for those who are eyeing the Bengal pie – 42 Lok Sabha and 16 Rajya Sabha seats.
Roy, 60, who registered the TMC as the party’s general secretary on December 17, 1997, seven days before Banerjee got herself expelled from the Congress and joined ‘Mukul’s’ party, is now facing the fate of a political pariah.
It’s curious, because since the beginning, Roy had been known as Banerjee’s Man Friday, handling the party’s affairs both in Delhi and Kolkata.
And later, he became indispensable by helping Banerjee cash in on her popularity for the first time in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
But Roy’s coolness and sharp survival instinct — for which he had been feted by his leader — forced him to ‘rebel’ against her. He ignored Banerjee’s unofficial whip that no TMC man should cooperate with the CBI in the Saradha scam.
No one — except Roy and suspended MP Kunal Ghosh, who had never been a TMC man — did. They preferred to face the CBI music, instead.
Roy had understood that it would be difficult for him to emerge unscathed from the crisis, given his involvement in everything that happened in Bengal since the rise of the TMC in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
No one really knows whether Roy had spilled the beans or not, but Banerjee clipped his wings, even to the extent of taking away the all-India general secretary post.
Now, speculations are rife about Roy’s plan of action. Siddharth Nath Singh, BJP’s observer for Bengal, said, “The voices of dissent against Banerjee will get sharper and Roy, too, will play his card. Some of the dissenters will wait till the assembly polls to switch over to us.”
So far, always smiling, never returning fire and amused over whatever is happening and being said about him by his colleagues, Roy has kept his cards close to his chest.
The only aggression that he can be accused of is allowing his supporters to stage occasional shows of support.
What are his options? The first option of joining the BJP, say observers and his close associates, is not an option at all because of the public perception that he was somehow involved in the Saradha scam.
The second option before Roy is to float a new party with other TMC dissenters, such as former railway minister and MP Dinesh Trivedi and Nandigram agitation leader and MP Shubhendu Adhikari.
But their position has become unclear after they were given coveted party posts.
Now, it seems that Roy is comfortable with the idea of not budging. Will he, then, focus on creating an internal pressure group to challenge Banerjee’s authority in the party?
State Congress leader Abdul Mannan said, “There’s a possibility of honest leaders floating a new party, apart from Roy forming a team within the Trinamool and some tainted leaders joining the BJP.”
The first signs of a split in Banerjee’s ‘family’ are coming to the surface.
Recently, Banerjee asked for shifting her personal belongings from Roy’s apartment in Delhi to her nephew, Abhishek’s place next door.
Abhishek has been given party posts that Roy used to hold.
It hit the target somewhere. Roy has recently taken an aggressive stand after taking the beatings for long. He has dared the party to expel him.
Sources close to his camp say that he is waiting for the numbers before engineering a clean break to launch his own faction formally. And Mamata is trying to avoid just that by sidelining whoever is known as a Roy loyalist.
Also, Roy’s son and a Trinamool MLA, Subhrangshu, called the media and did the unthinkable – attacking Mamata Banerjee.
Even Roy’s followers have opened up: “Dada is ... strengthening his base by identifying who his real friends are. Let’s see what action Didi (Banerjee) takes against Dada.”