National

Mukul Roy exits BJP, goes back to Trinamool Congress fold

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on June 12, 2021

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee addresses media after Mukul Roy joined the TMC, in Kolkata on Friday   -  PTI

BJP staring at the propsect of mass defections, say political observers

Four years after his much publicised defection to the BJP, Mukul Roy, a founder-member of the Trinamool Congress and its former national general secretary, made a ghar-wapsi.

Roy was the national Vice-President of the BJP.

Speculation had been rife over his political future and re-induction into Trinamool since Mamata Banerjee swept back to power with a stunning majority of over 200 seats in the May elections.

On May 8, the veteran politician issued a statement reiterating his allegiance to the BJP, but senior leaders of BJP remained skeptical. Abhishek Banerjee – Trinamool’s newly elected national general secretary – visited Roy’s ailing wife at a private hospital on June 2 fuelling speculations of his returning to the TMC fold.

Roy and son, Subhrangshu, met party supremo Banerjee at her residence before the change was formally announced on Friday evening. “Gharer chele ghar e phire elo,” (Mukul has returned home) the Chief Minister said, welcoming him.

Roy on his part said it was difficult for him to continue with the BJP. “Mamata Banerjee will lead West Bengal and India to its days of glory. I am happy to be back in my old party and with familiar faces and people,” he said.

According to Biswanath Chakraborty, political analyst and commentator, Roy was facing trust issues in the BJP. He had repeatedly reached out to the Trinamool top-brass ahead of the 2021 Assembly polls.

“There were trust issues at all levels, including with the Central leadership. Many BJP leaders saw him as a Trojan Horse of the Trinamool,” he told BusinessLine.

Ahead of the 2021 Assembly elections, the BJP drew Suvendu Adhikari – a one-time Mamata Banerjee protégé – into its fold. Adhikari’s rise was meteoric.

Suvendu’s rise, Mukul’s downfall

While Roy won as BJP’s candidate in Krishnanagar North in Nadia district, this was the first time in two decades, he fought an election. But the fact was, his clout in the party had visibly reduced. As Adhikari defeated Mamata Banejree in the all important prestige fight of Nandigram, he became BJP’s poster boy gaining access to central leadership including the Union Home Minister. He was elected as the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, a post that Roy was expecting for himself, say party insiders.

In the meantime, discontent between Roy and state President, Dilip Ghosh, spilled out in the open. Roy stopped all communication with the BJP leadership. He was not present in party meetings called after May 2.

“Most of Roy’s loyalists were defeated. His clout reduced and he himself was sidelined. Suvendu’s fortunes were on the rise. It was a matter of time that the career politician switched camps,” said Chakraborty.

Mukul’s BJP stint

Roy, incidentally, was the BJP’s first big import from the TMC way back in 2017, when it was eyeing an opportunity in the State. His fallout with the TMC happened because of the parallel and rapid rise of Abhishek.

Known to be a master in organising defections, Roy brought along with him a set of “loyalists” that included former MLAs like Sabyasachi Dutta, Subhranshu, Silbhadra Datta and Prabir Ghoshal, among others.

BJP saw the party’s growth for the first time during 2018 panchayat elections, six months after Roy joined. Of 48,636 gram panchayats, Trinamool captured 38,118, while BJP won 5,779.

Emboldened, Roy engineered further defections in Trinamool. Senior leaders like Soumitra Khan and Nisith Pramanik joined BJP and they became MP in 2019 elections. BJP won 18 of the 42 seats in the seats, its best show ever. Roy was getting the credit and was readying himself for a Union Cabinet berth.

His proximity to the national general secretary Kailash Vijaywargiya was well known; and his elevation as National VP was on expected lines. However, with corruption charges against him, Roy’s plans were nixed. His elevation drew severe criticism from within the party old guards because of his involvement in Saradha and Narada scams.

“Fact is people voted for BJP in panchayat elections because CPM is a spent force. And in 2019, it was a Modi-wave that swept Bengal. Roy was in the right place at the right time,” Chakraborty said.

String of ghar-wapsis

However, with Roy going back to the Trinamool, the BJP now stares at the prospect of heavy defections amongst its rank and file. Grassroot workers or booth level workers are shifting loyalties – out of fear, disillusionment or otherwise; many Trinamool turncoats who came in ahead of the 2021 assembly polls are also writing “apology letters” addressed to Mamata Banerjee. Many have openly started criticising the BJP.

According to Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya, Rajya Sabha MP of the CPI(M), intimidation of grassroot workers has been commonplace in Bengal. Left Front workers are being regularly threatened so that they join the Trinamool. Most switchovers are forced ones or because of “terror tactics”, he claims.

Discussing leaders shifting between Trinamool and BJP is futile. They are both sides of the same coin. It is a shift of convenience,” he maintained.

Trinamool dissidents such as former ministers Rajib Banerjee and Bachhu Hansda, former deputy speaker Sonali Guha, and former MLAs Sarala Murmu, Amal Acharya, Baishali Dalmia, Rabindranath Bhattacharjee and Dipendu Biswas, among others joined the BJP. Most of those who contested lost the polls.

Ever since, many of them made public appeals for return to the TMC and spoke of “disillusionment” with the BJP and their “remorse”. The BJP’s real worry, however, is the potential return of senior leaders like Rajib Banerjee, who has allegedly flown under the radar over the past few weeks. Many think, he is trying to get back to the Trinamool and has reached out to Chief Minister herself. His wife had met CM Banerjee recently. “Roy will take away some former MLAs, grassroot workers and even some sitting MLAs. It is for the BJP to keep its house in order now,” said Chakraborty.

Published on June 11, 2021

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