In the month of upheavals in West Bengal since Mamata Banerjee stormed back to power, one man’s silence has made the loudest noise. The former TMC No. 2, now a BJP vice-president, Mukul Roy has kept largely quiet since the May 2 result except to tweet his steadfast loyalty to the BJP. On Wednesday, the buzz about his plans returned as Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek dropped in at a Kolkata hospital to call on Roy’s wife Krishna, who is ailing from Covid. This, in turn, prompted a similar visit by BJP West Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh soon after, followed by a phone call by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday to Roy, who has been in home isolation since the middle of May after testing positive.
It’s not just Roy who is keeping BJP circles guessing. In a reversal of fortunes from before the Assembly elections, which saw high-spectacle desertions from the TMC to the BJP, it is the BJP’s turn now to watch the exit door.
While some leaders have made their desire to return to the TMC known, in plaintive appeals to Banerjee, others have dropped hints of their “remorse” via social media. The TMC claims admitting them is not on the agenda right now, busy as the Banerjee government is with fighting Covid and Cyclone Yaas’s aftermath.
On the day of the results itself, ex-TMC minister Rajib Banerjee, who lost on the BJP ticket from Domjur in Howrah, tweeted, “The lovable people of Bengal have made their choice very clear… Any attempt to do politics now while Bengal is fighting Covid cannot be acceptable.”
Then, on May 8, Roy skipped a BJP meeting in the Assembly while notably exchanging pleasantries with TMC West Bengal chief Subrata Bakshi. His tweet declaring loyalty to the BJP followed a day later.
One of the first TMC-turned-BJP leaders who appealed to Banerjee to take her back was her one-time confidant and former Satgachia MLA Sonali Guha. Having joined the BJP after the TMC denied her an Assembly ticket, but failing to get a nomination, Guha recently tweeted, tagging Banerjee, “Mach jemon jol chara banchte parena, temoni ami apnake chara banchte parbo na (Like a fish cannot live without water, I cannot live without you)”.
Guha told The Indian Express, “I have accepted my guilt. The BJP did not give me any importance.” According to her, when she went for the post-death rituals for Banerjee’s brother, who died of Covid, several TMC leaders assured her not to worry. “My return to the TMC is only a matter of time,” she said.
Ex- MLA of Bashirhat Dakshin and former footballer Dipendu Biswas said it was the CBI’s arrest of TMC leaders in the 2014 Narada sting case that convinced him to leave the BJP. Biswas, who also released a letter to Banerjee, told The Indian Express, “At a time when we are fighting Covid, the CBI arrested leaders like Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee. It was political vendetta and I quit the BJP that day.”
Several leaders from North Bengal who had joined the BJP before the Assembly polls have also made public their desire to return, including Sarala Murmu, who crossed over despite getting a ticket from the TMC, and ex-MLA Amal Acharya. At a press conference, Murmu said: “I made a mistake and I ask Didi to pardon me.” Acharya cited the CBI’s Narada arrests as his reason for leaving the BJP.
On May 30, two days before Abhishek’s visit to his mother, Mukul Roy’s son Shubhranshu posted on Facebook, “ Before we criticise a government which came to power through people’s mandate, we need self-criticism.”https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif
Shubhranshu, who was present at the hospital during Abhishek’s visit, said the association between the two families had not ended just because Roy had left the TMC. “Abhishek Banerjee came to see his aunt… My mother has always looked at him with affection and he respects her. I am grateful to the chief minister too, who through various sources enquired about us, my father and mother during these Covid times. Narendra Modi also called up my father,” he told reporters.
Asked whether he will join the TMC, Shubhranshu did not deny the possibility. “Let my mother come home. Then we will think about all that,” he said.
On Thursday, Abhishek told reporters that his call on Krishna Roy was not about politics. “I have known her since my childhood. She is like a mother to me,” he said.
TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh admitted several former partymen have “publicly admitted guilt and expressed their desire to return”, and that others were in touch over the phone. “But the party has not discussed the issue yet,” he said.
Ghosh added that they would keep several factors in mind. “Some of those who left are senior leaders, while others backstabbed the party. Those who did not leave showed their confidence in Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee; we must also respect their feelings. It has also been proved that without some leaders, the party can win. Besides, had the BJP done well, would these leaders have asked to return to the TMC?”
Asked about a possible reverse exodus, BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said, “People of Bengal are seeing everything. They (the leaders) came to the BJP crying and now want to return to the TMC laughing.”
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