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Why Mukul Roy is no longer in Mamata Banerjee’s good books

Roy was the undisputed number two in Trinamool Congress till few years ago. However, the rift was widening between Roy and Mamata Banerjee for quite some time.

india Updated: Sep 26, 2017 10:45 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Senior Trinamool Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Mukul Roy after announcing his resignation from the party in Kolkata on Monday.
Senior Trinamool Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Mukul Roy after announcing his resignation from the party in Kolkata on Monday.(PTI Photo)

Senior Trinamool Congress leader and Rajya Sabha legislator Mukul Roy, who announced his resignation from the party on Monday, has set the talking point for people during the festival season in West Bengal - his next move.

The 63-year-year-old offered only a teaser.

“I shall spell it out just after the pujas,” he said.

“I have sent an e-mail this morning informing my decision to step down from the working committee. I shall resign from the Rajya Sabha immediately after the pujas. About eight months are still left for my tenure to end in the Upper House. At that time I shall also step down from the primary membership of the party,” Roy said.

Roy was the undisputed number two in Trinamool Congress merely two and a half years ago. He was, however, reduced to a position where he would have to report to someone who once was his junior.

How could anybody continue in this manner, asked a minister in the Mamata Banerjee cabinet. The minister, who wished anonymity, was explaining why Roy, who helped Mamata Banerjee set up the party in late 1997, decided to quit Trinamool Congress.

Party secretary general and education minister Partha Chatterjee indicated Roy took the decision to quit as he had come under the pressure of central investigative agencies.

“Over the past few years, he was trying to weaken the party. He came under pressure from central investigative agencies and started hobnobbing with BJP leaders,” said Chatterjee.

Whatever the immediate reason, the rift was widening between Roy and chief minister Banerjee for quite some time.

On January 30, 2015, he was questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for his alleged involvement in the Saradha scam. It is widely believed that he avoided a certain arrest by parting with a lot of information on Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha MP and Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee.

Roy was removed from the position of the party general secretary in 2015. In December the same year, Roy was believed to be instrumental in floating the Nationalist Trinamool Congress party. It was later merged with Trinamool Congress.

He was increasingly sidelined in the party since then. However, before the 2016 assembly elections Roy was reinstated as a vice-president of the party.

On September 4, Roy was dropped from the parliamentary consultative committee of Union home ministry and TMC Rajya Sabha member Manish Gupta replaced him. On September 17, Banerjee abolished the post of Trinamool vice-president, a position held by Roy. Roy returned his “Z” category security provided to him by West Bengal government on September 20.

Roy was crucial in managing and expanding the party. A master strategist, he also succeeded in keeping the Modi wave in 2014 Lok Sabha polls away from Bengal, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won only two of the 42 seats in the state.

Trinamool Congress swept the assembly polls winning 211 of the 294 seats. But his proximity to the chief minister was never restored.

Over the past few weeks, a rumour that Roy was hobnobbing with senior BJP leaders started swirling. While Banerjee kept lambasting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah at public meetings, Roy was believed to be meeting Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, Shah and Uttar Pradesh health minister Siddharth Nath Singh.

Interestingly, soon after his announcement, his son and Trinamool MLA from Bijupur (in North 24 Parganas district), Subhrangshu Roy told a section of the media that he is with the ruling party and will continue with it.

“There is no question for other thoughts,” Subhrangshu said.

A leader close to Roy said much will depend on whether he joins the BJP or floats his own forum.

“Many of the existing Trinamool leaders who are keeping in touch with him are testing waters now. Maybe by December things will become clear. Don’t expect a number of TMC leaders joining him after the pujas,” the leader, who did not want to be named, said

The two names that are going around as Roy’s immediate associates are expelled Trinamool Rajya Sabha member, Kunal Ghosh, and expelled CPI(M) member of the upper house, Ritabrata Banerjee.

According to Trinamool sources, the Trinamool leaders allegedly keeping contact with Roy include party MLAs, Shilbhadra Sen and Shiuli Saha and Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation mayor, Sabyasachi Dutta.

“Speculations are also there that state transport minister, Suvendu Adhikari, also maintains a good and working relationship with Roy. So automatically, the names of his brother and Trinamool MP from Tamluk, Dibyendu Adhikari and his father, and party MP from Kontai, Sisir Adhikari, also join the grapevine,” said a Trinamool leader.