For the last 10 months Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee and her one time lieutenant Mukul Roy have never been in the same room. If on Wednesday night they shared a meal at the home of Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek – the man thought to be instrumental in the increasing estrangement between the two leaders – there may have been many reasons for it. And probably the least in that is Roy’s famed prowess as an organisation man.
It may have to do with the fact that the registration of the Nationalist Trinamool Congress with the Election Commission of India is in its last stages. The party whose prospective functionaries were routinely seen in Roy’s South Avenue flat along with a handful of suspended Trinamool MLAs suddenly seems to have hit a speed-breaker. Interestingly, though both sides took every care to make the Central Hall meet-and-greet and the dinner later that night impromptu, Trinamool insiders have been hinting at a possible easing of tension for some time now, with one MP even setting December 20 as a deadline for a possible reconciliation.
There were admittedly concerns within the Trinamool about the Nationalist Trinamool becoming a rallying point for not just Mukul loyalists but also for other disgruntled elements within the party. Ahead of a crucial assembly election next year, and in the face of evidently diminishing currency of the BJP Mamata, shrewd strategist that she is, would clearly not like to open a new flank.
Speaking about his meeting with Banerjee, Roy said on Thursday: “ I am am MP of the Trinamool Congress. I was never thrown out of the party, nor did I resign from it. What is to speculate about my meeting with the party chief? We have not met in the last ten months. It happens sometimes that there are differences between two people and with time those differences gradually recede into the background and things become clearer. But nothing really has changed.” The two, according to Roy spoke about “old times” during dinner.
Roy may claim there is nothing to speculate but a 10-month hiatus in relations between two people who used to speak to each other several times every day – in fact one of the criticisms of Roy when he was railway minister in UPA II was that he spent so much time in Kolkata and the ministry work suffered – has seen many changes in the organisation of the party. The prospect of a comeback of Roy is hardly palatable for many who have risen fast in a Trinamool Congress minus Mukul Roy.
The reasons for Mamata’s olive branch and Roy’s acceptance of it may also rest in the fact that in these last few months Roy has been in talks with parties across the spectrum. Congress gave him conflicting signals and despite several meetings with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Prime Minister Narendra Modi nothing in the nature of a rehabilitation in the BJP could be carved out. Roy of course has always maintained that too much should not be read much the meetings. “I am even now awaiting an appointment with the prime minister for some work of my own,” he says.
But Mamata about whom Roy had once said that “she does not take one step without thinking” has clearly decided to keep both her rival political parties and Mukul’s own loyalists guessing. The optics is the biggest takeaway in the story of the Mamata-Mukul reconcilation.