Kolkata: Four years after he defected to the BJP, the Trinamool’s founder-member and its former national general secretary Mukul Roy has made a ghar wapsi.
Flanked by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Trinamool’s national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee at Trinamool Bhavan Friday, Mukul Roy said he was here to stay.
“I could not continue in BJP, I will never do it again,” he said. “I will explain the reasons in a written statement soon. I want to be with the leader who took Bengal forward. In the present political situation, not many people will be able to continue in BJP.”
Calling him “ghorer chele (family member)”, Mamata Banerjee said, “BJP is not a party that any sane people can continue in. They intimidate and threaten people to join their party.
“Many Trinamool leaders were coerced. Mukul was never happy in the BJP. I was seeing how his health deteriorated. He was under tremendous mental pressure. After returning home, he has got mental peace.”
She reiterated that Roy was forced to join the BJP. “Mukul is not a gaddar (traitor). He did not utter a word against Trinamool during the election campaign,” she said. “He never defamed me. He had to join the BJP because they forced him to do that. BJP is a party of zamindars, landlords. It is not a party of the common man.”
The chief minister, however, made it clear that TMC leaders who defected to the BJP just before the elections and played the role of “traitors” would never be taken back.
“Some leaders who joined BJP with Mukul will be considered if they want to come back,” she said, adding that Roy will be given an “important” role in the party.
Before the press conference, Roy had met the chief minister at her residence in Kolkata’s Kalighat at 2 pm Friday. Top sources in the Trinamool confirmed that Roy had sought the appointment, and that the CM then agreed to meet him.
Political circles were abuzz about the possibility of Roy’s return to the Trinamool Congress — the party he founded in 1998 and is its primary authorised signatory — since 2 May when the state assembly election results were out.
Although the first high-profile Trinamool Congress leader to defect to the BJP in 2017, Roy didn’t get the prominence in the BJP that he might have expected. He was appointed BJP national vice-president last year but it was a ceremonial post and Roy was made to play second fiddle to other Trinamool defectors such as Suvendu Adhikari in the run up to the Assembly elections.
Roy had, however, issued a statement on 8 May, saying he was staying in the BJP.
“My fight would continue as a soldier of the BJP to restore democracy in our state,” he had written then. “I would request everyone to put the concoctions and conjectures to rest. I am resolute in my political path.”
However, the conflict between Roy and the BJP’s state president Dilip Ghosh didn’t abate. Roy late last month stopped all communication with the BJP state leadership.
Speculation had been growing
The speculation that he was likely to rejoin the TMC gained ground again on 2 June, when Abhishek Banerjee, the Trinamool’s newly-appointed national general secretary and Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, visited Roy’s ailing wife Krishna, who is admitted in a private hospital in Kolkata.
Roy later told ThePrint that no one from the BJP’s state unit had inquired about his wife’s health. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, however, called Roy.
A senior BJP leader, who is a close aide of Roy, told ThePrint that there have been constant “negotiations and discussions” between Roy and central BJP leaders over the past two weeks, as he began feeling “ignored” in the party structure in the state.
“I joined BJP as I see Mukulda as my leader. I know how he was cornered in the party. He is the one who brought BJP 18 seats in the Lok Sabha elections. He did not get his due,” the BJP leader had told ThePrint shortly before Roy’s meeting with Banerjee.
“If he re-joins Trinamool, which is now just a matter of time, there will be a group of leaders or former MLAs who will follow,” he added.
Trinamool MP Saugata Roy had told ThePrint, before the press conference was announced, that there would be opposition in the party to Roy rejoining. “We are not yet informed about his joining. But there would be resistance from a section of senior leaders. The final call will be taken by Mamata Banerjee,” the MP said.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh, however, told ThePrint that such “reverse migration” won’t affect his party.
“I said this earlier and I am repeating it again. The BJP did not beg anyone to join the party. They came on their own. And if some opportunistic persons want to return to their original party, they can go,” Ghosh told ThePrint. “They did not have any role to play in the BJP’s rise in Bengal. It will be good for the party if such people leave fast.”
Stint in BJP
Mukul Roy had joined BJP in November 2017.
In his first public address, Roy attacked Abhishek, while calling the Trinamool a ‘company’, and not a political party. He questioned Abhishek’s association with the Mamata government’s project of ‘Biswa Bangla’, which was launched to promote Bengali arts and crafts.
“Mukul Roy drifted away from Trinamool Congress because he was not able to tolerate Abhishek’s parallel rise in the party. He sensed it long back and he saw Abhishek becoming the party’s chief. This was the bone of contention,” said a senior Trinamool leader.
“He tried to negotiate with Didi about more power in the party, which didn’t happen then. He was already the party’s general secretary then.”
After Roy joined the BJP, several of his followers followed suit. Some senior MLAs, including Sabyasachi Dutta and Roy’s son Subhranshu Roy, were among the first to cross over. Subhranshu has also rejoined the TMC Friday.
Roy engineered further defections. Senior leaders like Soumitra Khan and Nisith Pramanik joined the BJP and became MPs in the 2019 Parliamentary elections. Following the general election, Roy was made the party’s national vice-president. He has been very close to the party’s national general secretary and West Bengal incharge Kailash Vijayvargiya.
Roy had, however, expected better recognition from his new party. There had been criticism of Roy’s elevation, from within the BJP, as he is one of the accused in Saradha chit fund scam and Narada graft case.
Roy was the BJP’s candidate at the Krishnanagar North seat in Nadia, in the just concluded elections, and won. It was the first time in two decades that he had fought an election. His son Subhranshu Roy, however, lost.
Political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty told ThePrint that the development was no surprise.
“Mukul Roy became a Trojan horse in the BJP. Amit Shah knew about it and that is why they restricted him to one constituency by giving him a ticket,” Chakraborty said. “Mamata Banerjee never attacked him during her election campaign. She will reward him for his loyalty.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
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