In a major blow to the BJP, Mukul Roy, the party’s national vice-president and one of the key faces in West Bengal joined TMC, along with his son Subhranshu Roy.
The two went to meet the chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee at the TMC’s state unit office on Friday. Banerjee’s nephew, Abhishek, who is considered the present-day second-in-command, was also at the state unit office.
These dramatic developments took place rather rapidly since Friday morning, as there was no indication till Thursday evening that Mukul Roy’s return to his old party could happen so early.
Though the possibility was being widely discussed in Bengal’s media and political circles, the developments were expected to take a little more time.
However, sources in the TMC state leadership said that Roy made up his mind on Thursday night and gave the confirmation to the TMC leadership.
The BJP’s state and national-level leadership were in complete dark till Friday morning.
Roy was known as Mamata Banerjee’s closest aide since the birth of the party in 1998. Actually, when Mamata Banerjee had made up her mind about quitting the Congress at the end of 1997, she had asked Roy to get the new party registered. The TMC was initially registered as a political party by Roy.
Since then, till 2014, Roy was known as the second-in-command in the TMC and also held the post of all-India general secretary. However, he fell out with her in 2015 over the meteoric rise of Abhishek Banerjee through the party ranks and finally joined the BJP in November 2017.
Since then, till the Lok Sabha election of 2019, the BJP gave Roy immense importance and literally fought the Lok Sabha election in the state keeping Roy at the forefront. Union home minister Amit Shah had publicly said in Kolkata in 2019 that the BJP’s Bengal success in the Lok Sabha elections came under Roy’s leadership. However, Roy had been unhappy with the way the BJP leadership gave more importance to another turncoat from the TMC, Suvendu Adhikari, since the latter joining the BJP at the end of 2020. He was also unhappy with the increasing communal tone in the BJP’s campaign as the assembly election inched forth.
“Roy repeatedly told the BJP’s national-level leaders that Bengal could not be won without getting votes of the Muslims but none heeded to him. He has himself made no communal remark during his career in the BJP. However, since the election results came out, it became evident to him that the BJP was going to stress on the communal line of the campaign all the more. He found himself unfit for the atmosphere,” said a politician who has been close to Roy.
Since joining the BJP, Roy played an instrumental role in getting disgruntled TMC leaders to join the BJP, starting with sitting TMC MP Saumitra Khan in January 2019. Later, TMC leaders like Arjun Singh and Nishith Pramanik came to the BJP and went on to become BJP Lok Sabha MPs.
Now, the TMC expects him to play a similar role - getting disgruntled BJP leaders to join the TMC.
Meanwhile, responding to the developments, the BJP's Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta wrote on Twitter, "An election setback is of concern. The task of Bengal BJP is to draw the lessons & move ahead. These steps are underway & will become evident. There’s no cause for new & old karyakartas to be dispirited & go into a shell. BJP will build on the 2.2 crore votes & enlarge its reach."
In another development, Saumitra Khan, who is now the Bengal BJP's youth wing chief, said, "I will shave off my head tomorrow the way Hindus do when their parents die. I will do this because I had been with Mukul Roy. I will stay with Narendra Modi."
TMC leader, who recently had a discussion with Roy, said that he was also upset with the way the BJP’s national leadership was giving more importance to Suvendu Adhikari.
“Even the Bengal BJP’s old leaders are unhappy with the way Adhikari is trying to emerge as the face of the party and the way the central leadership is encouraging him. Even the state unit president Dilip Ghosh is feeling uncomfortable. Mukul Roy did not want to waste his time there sensing that Ghosh and Adhikari were going to compete with each other for being the prime opposition face,” said a close associate of Mukul Roy who did not want to be named.