Updated: December 22, 2014 8:31:11 am
Despite West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s claims that CBI’s action against Trinamool Congress leaders in the Saradha scam probe is driven by “political vendetta”, the party seems to be preparing for contingencies.
Mukul Roy, leader of the party in Rajya Sabha, has quietly made way for Derek O’Brien in spearheading the charge against the government. Roy, who has been branded by rival parties as one of the Saradha beneficiaries, remains the leader, but only nominally. From chalking out the day’s “war plan” with other opposition parties to egging members onto the well, O’Brien has emerged as TMC’s man for all seasons in the House.
Even during Mamata’s “informal” media interaction on Friday, it was O’Brien who was called to her aid, while Roy, once described as her right-hand man, remained a bystander.
Mamata did have a chat with Roy inside the Central Hall on Thursday. However, minutes after the party had already confirmed that she will visit the President at Army Research and Referral Hospital that evening, Roy seemed unaware. “There is no appointment as yet,” he told mediapersons.
Roy has maintained a low profile in Rajya Sabha throughout the Winter Session. When nine opposition parties signed a joint statement on Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, it was O’Brien, not Roy, who signed on TMC’s behalf. The transition, too glaring to be missed, has triggered speculation in party circles about the imminent designation of O’Brien as the leader of the party in the Upper House. The party, however, has officially denied it.
A party leader, when asked about the possibility of replacing Roy with O’Brien said: “It is the party MPs who will decide who will lead them in House. So long as a person has their confidence, he can continue to lead”.
Meanwhile, speculation about Roy being ‘sidelined’ is also doing the rounds in the power corridors of Kolkata.
Mamata recently decided to send Higher Education Minister Partha Chatterjee to a Chennai rally in place of Roy, setting off rumours that Roy is no longer TMC’s face.
The December 23 rally, convened by MDMK leader Vaiko to protest against Centre’s policies, will be the first time Chatterjee attends a rally in another state.
Reacting to the news, Roy said: “I know Partha is going to Chennai. I am no longer spokesman of Trinamool Congress. Ask Partha. He has been launched at the national level.’’
Sources said the efforts to ‘sideline’ Roy are also aimed at establishing Mamata’s nephew and Diamond Harbour MP Abhisek Banerjee as her political successor.
“More than Didi marginalising him, Roy has marooned himself. He cannot stand the rise of Abhisek,” a TMC MP said.