Mukul Roy’s decision to quit BJP driven by differences brewing since last year
For 67-year-old Mukul Roy, the tryst with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ended in 42 months mainly because of the differences between different lobbies of state and central apparatchiks, said leaders aware of the development.
“Even before the recent assembly polls were announced, many BJP leaders suspected that Roy might leave. Although he contested the polls and won the Krishnanagar North seat in Nadia district, he was staying aloof,” said a senior officer-bearer of the Bengal BJP who did not want to be quoted.
“He was a TMC Rajya Sabha member and even served as minister in the Manmohan Singh government but for a person who never won a public election, an unfamiliar seat posed a risk. Yet, he made it although his son could not retain the Bijpur seat in North 24 Parganas district, the home turf of Roy. He felt some people in the party wanted to see him lose,” the leader added.
Roy joined the BJP on November 3, 2017, at the party’s headquarters in Delhi where Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya welcomed him in front of the media. “I have full faith that the BJP will gain from Mukul Roy’s experience and grow in Bengal,” Prasad said at that press conference.
Roy was not given any significant post and was inducted as a member of the national executive committee. Roy, however, worked hard in the districts and engineered numerous defections from the TMC. He became the BJP’s election strategist in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in which the saffron camp’s seat tally shot up from two to 18 and that of the TMC fell from 34 to 22.
On September 26 last year, Roy was made the national vice-president of the party, which everyone saw as a reward for his performance. But differences in the state BJP became apparent at a programme held in Kolkata to felicitate Roy for his elevation in the BJP hierarchy. It was marked by the absence of state president Dilip Ghosh and a host of other leaders. They were all in the districts, holding rallies in support of the new farm laws.
Vijayvargiya, who was made election observer for West Bengal and national secretary and co-in-charge of West Bengal Arvind Menon were also felicitated at that programme. Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasgupta addressed the audience among whom the overwhelming presence of leaders and workers who defected from the TMC was noticeable.
“I was born in Bengal but now I am working for the BJP central unit. If the BJP leadership wants to entrust me with any responsibility I will carry it out sincerely. Ousting the Mamata Banerjee government should be our only goal,” Roy said during a short speech.
This immediately stoked speculations that Roy might be made head of the election committee for the assembly polls which was due in about six months. “That did not happen. Suvendu Adhikari, who joined the BJP in December, last year, was projected as a policy decider. After he defeated Mamata Banerjee in the assembly polls, Adhikari was made leader of the opposition in the state assembly and Roy was asked to nominate his name. This became a bone of contention,” said a state BJP leader who did not want to be quoted.
“Rivalry between old BJP leaders and TMC turncoats was visible in the party after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. On the eve of the assembly polls, we found many former TMC leaders getting divided in camps and owing allegiance to leaders in Delhi. The effect was felt on the ground with the TMC winning 213 of the state’s 294 seats against the BJP’s 77,” said the leader.
Former TMC Lok Sabha member Anupam Hazra, who was made a national secretary in place of Rahul Sinha, a veteran leader, in September 2020, spoke out on social media on Friday after Roy joined the TMC.
“Lobbying in the Bengal unit of the BJP and projecting one or two leaders while ignoring and insulting capable leaders, has had its effect. The Bengal BJP should stop this lobby politics immediately and utilize leaders in accordance to their merit. Hope I will be invited to the coming party meetings according to protocol. I joined the BJP during its bad days and I will remain in the party. I am writing this with an aim to stop the dirty lobbying,” Hazra wrote in his social media post.
Reacting to Roy’s exit, Dilip Ghosh said, “I don’t know if it is a loss because his presence did not yield much profit.”
As a founder member of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) since its birth in January 1998, Roy was one of the closest aides of Mamata Banerjee. She wanted him to be the party’s face in Delhi and coordinate with national and regional parties. Roy was sent to the Rajya Sabha where he served from 2006 to 2017. In 2006, he was also made national general secretary of the party which made him the second leader in the hierarchy. In 2011, when Mamata Banerjee ousted the Left Front government and resigned as Union railway minister, Roy served as minister of state for railways for a few months. Before that he was minister of state for shipping for about two years.
During the assembly polls, Mamata Banerjee added to speculations about her stand on Roy when she drew a comparison between Roy and Adhikari. “Poor Mukul has been fielded from Nadia district although he hails from North 24 Parganas. He is not as bad as Suvendu,” Banerjee said at a rally on March 30.
Her public statement convinced many that Roy would eventually return to TMC which he left over differences with leaders close to Abhishek Banerjee. He was suspended for six years for anti-party activities. “With Banerjee now holding the post of national general secretary the old equations no longer exist,” said a TMC leader.
Recognised as a shrewd strategist rather than a street leader, and often referred to as Chanakya, Roy managed to engineer defections in the TMC because he knows the strengths and weakness of the party in not only the North 24 Parganas, his home turf, but also several other districts.
“Roy knows Bengal like the palm of his hand. The poll results have proved that nobody is indispensable in the TMC. However, Roy’s return may prompt many leaders and grassroots level workers, who switched sides under his influence, to follow his footsteps. Such an exodus will affect the image of BJP’s national leaders who welcomed deserters in such large numbers in 2019,” said colum