The Trinamool Congress’s decision to suspend Shubhrangshu Roy, MLA from Bijpur constituency and son of BJP leader Mukul Roy, for anti-party activities may be just the tip of the iceberg of the party’s troubles in West Bengal.
While Shubhrangshu on Friday praised his father and called him the “real chanakya of Bengal politics”, his suspension was seen largely as a matter of time ever since the exit of Roy senior from TMC.
But the BJP’s unprecedented inroads into West Bengal has created unrest inside Trinamool, especially among MLAs who will have to seek re-election in two years.
Campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had claimed that 40 Trinamool MLAs are in touch with him. Since Thursday’s results — the BJP won 18 Lok Sabha seats and four of the eight Assembly seats that went to the bypolls — at least 10 MLAs have attempted to reach out to Mukul Roy either directly or through intermediaries, according to highly placed sources.
Mukul Roy has started emerging as a rallying point of disgruntled state leaders. Many feel that a result like Thursday’s for the BJP, with its known organisation limitations, means there is a groundswell of support, and the TMC could get “washed away” in 2021 state elections. The only way out for TMC leaders, thus, would be to change sides.
There are also the likes of former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee – an MLA from Behala Purba, he is waiting in the wings after a bitter falling out with Chief Minister and party chief Mamata Banerjee.
The TMC is aware of the impending poaching dangers. State minister and party secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said: “All those found to have been grossly incompetent or have had negotiations with the BJP will be removed. All negatives will be turned into positives with an eye on the Assembly polls.”
Mamata Banerjee is set to chair a review meeting at 4 pm on Saturday where all new MPs and losing candidates will give their analysis of the results.
On Friday, Shubhrangshu had remarked: “Does the party trust me? I had promised Dinesh-da (TMC’s Barrackpore Lok Sabha candidate Dinesh Trivedi) a lead from Bijpur (Assembly segment in Barrackpore seat) but I failed. I lost out to my father. I am not leaving the party but everything right now is a question mark for me. My father is wrecking havoc on the party he had helped build…”
The TMC swiftly suspended him for anti-party activities. Partha Chatterjee said, “He was crossing lines repeatedly. This was the last straw.”
Sources in TMC said Shubhrangshu had won Bijpur in 2016 with a margin of over 47,000 votes. The BJP, however, got a lead there in Lok Sabha elections, and as the results showed, Trivedi, a two-time MP from Barrackpore, lost by 14,857 votes.
A senior TMC leader said, “We do not know where Noapara MLA Sunil Singh and Titagarh MLA Manish Shukla stood. The Bijpore MLA, of course, was missing in action…. There were a lot of internal problems.”
Bengal political history: exodus to the ascendant
While West Bengal saw an exodus of leaders and cadres to the Trinamool Congress after it replaced the Left Front government, the TMC is now facing this. The party has already lost several leaders to the BJP, but the next two years before the Assembly elections will be crucial. The BJP, as the challenger, is expected to go all out and woo them with promises and rewards. The TMC’s fight will be to counter and better those.
Noapara and Titagarh Assembly segments are part of Barrackpore Lok Sabha seat.
Asked whether Subhrangshu will join BJP, Mukul said, “I have no say in this. It is for him and the BJP leadership to decide.”
BJP’s Arjun Singh, who defeated Trivedi, asserted that Subhrangshu will join the saffron party soon.
Sources said many in TMC also feel that the charge of appeasement has stuck not just because the BJP cashed in on it but also due to the way the government was run.
A party leader said, “We could not tell BJP that the appeasement charge was fabricated because when the Chief Minister took a decision of Muharram and Durga Puja processions, the ideal way to go about it would have been to call a meeting with all opposition parties and present the situation as it was —- a potential law and order threat. Instead, the decision was taken unilaterally and we have been left fighting a difficult battle.” —(Inputs from ens, kolkata)