Mukul Roy has always been Mamata Banerjees favourite to replace her as railway minister,not just now that Dinesh Trivedi has fallen out of her favour. It was Roys name she proposed in 2011,too,when she vacated the ministry to become West Bengal chief minister,but Trivedi unexpectedly got the berth,reportedly following the Prime Ministers intervention.
No leader enjoys Mamatas trust as totally as Roy does. Many in the Trinamool Congress,in fact,describe Roy,currently MoS for Shipping,as the partys CEO,who executes jobs Mamata assigns with precision. He is known for a cool temperament and robust energy,running around for the party organisation from Junglemahal to Nandigram and Manipur to Punjab.
He was first elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2006 and later became members of and invitees to key parliamentary committees. His educational background,however,has a question mark over it,with his qualifications given as Higher Secondary,B Sc (Part-I). Replies from party insiders suggest he had joined politics when in B Sc first year and never completed the course.
His role as the partys No 2 is unquestionable. He is credited with having built its organisational setup from scratch since 2001. He knows each leader at the grass-roots by name,and has helped bring many of them closer to Didi. For any emerging leader in the rural belt,for any defections to the Trinamool from the Congress or the Left,the man to contact is Roy. And despite the clout he enjoys,the key feature of his personality is that he always knows where the uncharted Lakshman rekha lies,one that should be crossed when dealing with Didi.
With his word taken as that of Didi,he has earned some unpopularity among party colleagues,particularly the seniors who envy his authority. He is often described as a wall that blocks all else from easy access to Didi.
During the 2011 Assembly elections,Roy deftly handled an issue raised by Gautam Deb,the CPMs then housing minister. Roy sent Deb a legal notice after the latter,in a TV interview,alleged that the Trinamool was using black money to fund its campaign. Deb lodged a complaint with the states chief electoral officer who did not find merit in the allegations with documentary proof that the Trinamool had distributed Rs 33.9 crore among its candidates.
Roys notice asked Deb why he made these comments without basis. The partys counsel asked Deb to apologise publicly or face a civil and criminal defamation suit.
In those elections,Roy was also the one who screened candidates. He managed a berth for his son Subhrangshu Roy,who went on to win from Bijpur,his home constituency in North 24-Parganas,but who courted controversy in the run-up to the elections,spending a night in jail on charges of attacking Election Commission officials. After hiding out for five days,he was arrested from a rally where Mamata made it clear that the law must take its course.
Mukul Roy,too,has been in a couple of controversies. While he was in interim charge as MoS for Railways under the Prime Minister,over 100 people were injured in an IED blast derailed a train in Guwahati. The PM asked him to visit the site,but he defied him. There is no need for me to go now, he said. I am not the railway minister,the Prime Minister is. I am only one of three Ministers of State.
It is widely believed that the PM ruled out Roy as railway minister after Mamata proposed it.
Another controversy came with Roy as MoS for Shipping. Senior Trinamool leader Somen Mitra,Lok Sabha member,alleged Roy was guilty of financial irregularities and granting the lease for a piece of Port Trust land at low rates. The complaint was referred to the Centre and Mitra demanded a probe. Mitra wrote to Mamata too,but Roy with his composure and Didis support seems to have steered clear of the trouble.