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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Defections and focus on grassroots — How Mukul Roy engineered BJP’s Bengal rise

Roy quit the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in September 2017 and joined the saffron outfit in November. Within a year of being in the BJP, Roy helped the party expand its organisational base to the grassroots and build booth committees.

Written by Santanu Chowdhury | Kolkata |
Updated: June 12, 2021 10:32:34 am
Mukul Roy, Mamata Banerjee, Mukul Roy joins TMC, BJP leader Mukul Roy joins TMC, Kolkata news, Bengal politics news, Indian ExpressMukul Roy with TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee Friday. (Express Photo by Partha Paul)

Despite the BJP trying to discredit its former national vice-president Mukul Roy by claiming that he did not make any difference to its prospects in West Bengal, a look at his four-year stint with the saffron camp paints a different picture.

Roy quit the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in September 2017 and joined the saffron outfit in November. Within a year of being in the BJP, Roy helped the party expand its organisational base to the grassroots and build booth committees. As a result, the party performed well in the 2018 panchayat elections even though it was a distant second to the ruling party. The saffron outfit bagged 5,759 Gram Panchayat seats, 764 Panchayat Samiti seats and 23 Zilla Parishad seats. The BJP performed well in the districts of Purulia, Jhargram, Paschim Medinipur and Bankura districts, which were once part of a Maoist belt in West Bengal.

Following the initial success, Roy embarked on strengthening the party in every corner of the state before the crucial 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He was instrumental in bringing in TMC leaders such as Saumitra Khan, Nisith Pramanik, and Arjun Singh who went on to win the Lok Sabha polls on BJP tickets. Surprising everyone, the BJP won 18 of the 42 parliamentary seats in Bengal, and increased its vote share from 10.16 per cent in the 2016 Assembly polls to 40.3 per cent.

Roy’s organisational abilities and electoral strategies were behind the BJP’s electoral success. Following the Lok Sabha elections, he was instrumental in engineering defections from the TMC. As a result, several TMC MLAs, including former state minister and Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee, joined the saffron camp. In addition, six civic bodies in North 24 Parganas district, from where Roy hailed, overnight went to BJP’s control following mass defections of TMC councillors.

Even ahead of the 2021 state elections, Roy weakened the TMC by causing defections and bringing more TMC leaders to the BJP. However, due to differences of opinion with state BJP president Dilip Ghosh, the party sideline Roy as the polls approached. He was also made a party candidate against his wish while more importance was given to new leaders from the TMC, among whom was Suvendu Adhikari. Following, the electoral debacle of the BJP, Roy distanced himself from the party.

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