By Ashis Biswas
Never mind the vituperative put-down by Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders of Mukul Roy, the co-founder of their party, after his resignation: the fact remains that he stole a march over them by quitting first before the party reacted. More importantly, his walkout will certainly pose problems for his former colleagues, especially Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the days ahead.
For the weak opposition in West Bengal, Roy’s parting of ways with the TMC is certainly the best news in a long time. Prodded by their furious supremo Mamata Banerjee, TMC leaders point to the experience of senior leaders Subrata Mukherjee, Sudip Bandopadhya and even Somen Mitra.
They all sought to rewrite their political careers independently of the TMC. Not one succeeded. Their sheepish return to the TMC fold eventually on their own initiative to ensure their relevance was humiliating. Mitra has almost retired since.
However, in lumping Roy together with the others and insisting that he too will come a cropper, the TMC leaders err in their assessment. The underexposed Roy is neither comparable nor similar in any way to the more visible Mukherjees and Bandopadhyays of the TMC. An organisation man to the bone, Roy revels in lording over others in the back room, where he closely monitors developments and trends in the 340-odd blocks of Bengal. He has been doing this for years.
‘Not even Ms Banerjee, who is unusually alert to inner party developments, knows more about the TMC’s organisation than Roy, who was her eyes and ears for the 70,000 polling booths put up during state elections!’ concedes a senior TMC MLA.
The question arises as to who will benefit politically from Roy’s incomparable knowledge base about the TMC. The answer stares observers in the face: the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Even during his last trip to West Bengal, BJP President Amit Shah expressed his concern that the state party unit has managed to ensure some kind of presence in only 44,000 polling booths, but finds further progress difficult. The reason? Intimidation and never-ending harassment for BJP supporters and cadres ruthlessly carried out by the ruling TMC and its pliant police force.
True, Shah cut short the sob stories from his followers and urged them to be more aggressive in their campaign. However, it is easier said than done….during the last fortnight, at least three BJP supporters have been killed by suspected TMC opponents in the state! No arrests were made, of course.
This is where Roy with his booth level knowledge of the TMC’s party apparatus could make a big difference, by enriching the BJP”s data bank, as it gears up to take on the TMC for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. No wonder senior BJP leaders like Kailash Vijaybargia and Siddharthnath Singh have always maintained that if Roy wishes to join, the state party must take a call and advise the central leaders.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh makes no secret of his support for Roy. “The TMC will certainly be weakened,” he says and agrees with other leaders that Roy must be ‘respectfully’ inducted into the party for the expertise and knowledge he will bring to the table!
To date Roy has not indicated which way he will go, where joining the BJP or continuing with his new fledgling outfit the Nationalist Trinamool Congress is concerned. This party was set up some time ago by people who are loyal to him and it functions from a modest office at Maniktola area, North Kolkata.
While there was hardly any activity earlier, of late the footfall of visitors to its office has increased, say locals. More significantly, even as he responded to a CBI call to interrogate him, Roy reportedly sent representatives to the Central Election Commission, informing them that the newly-set up outfit was very much functional.
Clearly Roy and his TMC followers, not to mention senior state and Central BJP leaders, have been maintaining close touch all these months, as the distance between him and Mamata grew. One after another, his posts within the TMC were taken away from him. He had been the party secretary and put in charge of party affairs in several states outside Bengal. Roy never reacted to these snubs publicly, say party insiders, but he was upset over the sudden prominence accorded to Mamata’s nephew Abhishek at all levels. “He must have been in touch with other seniors leaders on this issue and I will not be surprised if in the future some of this leaders quit the TMC to join him,” admits a TMC leader.
Not surprisingly, a section of the Kolkata-based print media has been running reports suggesting that at least 25 TMC MLAs are known to be in the ‘Roy camp’ along with scores of councillors and some MPs as well. Beyond saying that ‘I will announce everything in good time,’ Roy has not been forthcoming about such matters to mediapersons, nor has the TMC commented officially on such speculation.
That is not to suggest that the TMC is not worried … Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee nowadays declares: “Those who wish to join the BJP are welcome to walkout of the TMC,” at every public rally. “It will not harm us.”
In other words, while Mamata and other TMC leaders have been busy hogging the limelight, arranging functions and delivering speeches, Roy and his team have worked silently and methodically, within and without the TMC, preparing the ground for an effective ouster that will damage the TMC. They have been preparing for the present situation for weeks and months.
This became evident even in the matter of his dramatic resignation on September 25. By choosing his own time to resign and announce it, Roy showed himself to be one step ahead of his ex-leader Mamata Banerjee, who is now known to have ordered his suspension to be announced the same day. The charge against Roy: hobnobbing with the BJP.
Roy got in his blow first by resigning, leaving his party in an angry reactive mode only because he was tipped off by insiders about his imminent suspension order, according to TMC sources! (IPA Service)