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Sailing through controversies, Mukul ship reaches railway port

kolkata Updated: Mar 21, 2012 00:51 IST
Ravik Bhattacharya
Ravik Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
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Blocked once by the prime minister himself, there was no stopping Mukul Roy the second time. The man who once defied the PM and refused to visit 100 people injured in a train wreck, now heads the railway ministry.

Following the controversy over fare hikes, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee prevailed – pulling out Dinesh Trivedi and installing the 57-year-old shipping minister in his place. But while Roy remains Banerjee’s Man Friday in Bengal, the controversies have not increased his appeal at the Centre.

He was Banerjee’s first choice as the railway minister when she vacated the post last year, and was given interim charge as a junior minister. But the PM vetoed Roy’s elevation after he refused to visit the victims of the Assam train blast despite the PM’s request.

His stint at the shipping ministry has been controversial. Late last year, senior Trinamool MP Somen Mitra wrote to the PM demanding a CBI inquiry into a deal to lease a parcel of Port Trust land in West Bengal’s Haldia at a rate that was reportedly below its market price. But with Banerjee’s support, Roy rode out the storm.

In Bengal, party leaders have complained about his high-handedness. But even that has made no difference. “Mukul has a Teflon coating, to which no controversy can stick. A cool head is his biggest asset,” said Sultan Ahmed, MoS tourism and long-time party colleague.

That cool head has carried the man, once a smalltime railway contractor, a long way.

Politics, though, ran in the family. Roy’s mother, late Rekha Roy, was a member of the undivided CPI. Roy started his stint in college and actively worked for the Congress.

In the 1990s, he joined Banerjee, and was instrumental in floating Trinamool Congress in 1998.

Now, back in Banerjee’s favourite ministry, the man who is most comfortable in kurta-pyjamas, has donned a safari suit. It remains to be seen if the makeover is more than skin deep.