TMC MP Satabdi Roy voices dissent, Abhishek Banerjee steps in to solve crisis
- For the first time, TMC’s youth unit president and chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee stepped in to solve the crisis. He sent party spokesperson Kunal Ghosh to bring Roy to his office on Camac Street in south Kolkata and held a two-hour meeting on Friday.
Less than a month after former Trinamool Congress (TMC) minister Suvendu Adhikari joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) along with six “disgruntled” sitting MLAs and a Lok Sabha member, the ruling party suffered a jolt on Friday when Satabdi Roy, the three-time Lok Sabha member from Birbhum and a former star of Bengali cinema, voiced dissent against the leadership and spoke of “taking a decision”.
The speculations started on Thursday over a post on a Facebook page of the Satabdi Roy Fan Club. The post, which Roy on Friday said was written by her, mentioned that she was unable to connect with voters in her constituency as she was not being invited to TMC programmes since the 2019 polls.
For the first time, TMC’s youth unit president and chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee stepped in to solve the crisis. He sent party spokesperson Kunal Ghosh to bring Roy to his office on Camac Street in south Kolkata and held a two-hour meeting on Friday.
“I discussed the problems I had with our leader Abhishek Banerjee. I conveyed to him the grievances I had. He said he will solve all the problems,” Roy said after emerging from the meeting at around 8.45 pm.
“I am not going to Delhi. At this moment it is necessary that we all stay in the party. I am not a politician. I came to politics because of Mamata Banerjee, I am with her,” she added, referring to her earlier statement that she would be going to Delhi on Saturday. This triggered speculations that she might meet some important BJP leader.
When asked whether any BJP leader contacted her, Roy smiled and said, “Yes.”
The political drama started on Thursday when people noticed the Facebook post.
“In the new year, I am trying to take some decision so that I can give my whole time to you. I am grateful to you. You have supported me since 2009 and sent to me to the Lok Sabha. I hope I will continue to receive your love in the future. I became an MP much later. Long before that it was Satabdi Roy whom you loved. I will try to do my duty. If I take any decision, I will announce it at 2 pm on January 16, 2021,” the Facebook post said.
Roy told the media that she would fly to Delhi on Saturday. This led to rumours that she would meet Union home minister Amit Shah. “As an MP, I can always meet Shah. But I am not saying that I will join the BJP,” Roy said on Friday afternoon, hours before meeting Abhishek Banerjee.
This became a major embarrassment for the party as Roy was the only leader who walked alongside chief minister Mamata Banerjee at the grand roadshow in Birbhum’s Bolpur town on December 29, nine days after the Union home minster held a roadshow at the same spot.
TMC leaders made desperate attempts to talk to Roy. Party spokesperson Kunal Ghosh even rushed to her residence. “I called her up and said she should not leave the TMC. She expressed her unhappiness over certain organizational issues in Birbhum district,” said Saugata Roy.
TMC leaders who spoke to her told HT that Roy was annoyed with some local leaders in Birbhum and alleged that they were bypassing her in every decision-making process and inviting the TMC’s Bolpur Lok Sabha MP Asit Mal to all party meets while ignoring her. TMC’s Birbhum unit president Anubrata Mondal, however, denied the charges saying Roy never complained to him.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh and national vice-president Mukul Roy - both of whom were in Delhi on Friday -- said in the morning that the BJP had not contacted Roy.
Though the TMC managed to stop Roy from leaving, the party was in an uncomfortable position because of state forest minister Rajib Banerjee who has been avoiding most government and party programmes since September. Banerjee said in a social media post that he would go live on Saturday, leading to speculations that he too might voice his dissent in public. Since September, the minister has been speaking against a section of leaders in Howrah district.
On Friday, Shyamal Adak, the administrative head of the Haldia civic body in East Midnapore and a leader known to be close to Suvendu Adhikari resigned from the TMC. He, however, left the media guessing about his next move.