Updated: June 11, 2022 8:15:10 am
He is not in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but he is a BJP MLA. Mukul Roy’s case is getting curiouser: One year after he defected from the BJP back to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), Roy continues to be a BJP MLA and remains at the centre of a raging row over his status as a legislator.
Once considered as the No. 2 in the TMC, when he was the party supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s close aide, Roy, following his defection to the BJP, went on to become the top saffron party leader in West Bengal.
Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Roy resigned froms the TMC and joined the BJP where he later became the party national vice-president.
However, in June last year, barely one month after the state Assembly polls clinched by the Mamata-led TMC for the third consecutive time, Roy returned to the party. Notwithstanding the TMC’s sweep in the polls, he had won his own seat from the Krishnanagar (North) constituency in Nadia district on the BJP ticket.
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The controversy erupted after his return to the TMC fold, when the Bengal Assembly Speaker, Biman Banerjee, named him as the head of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), a post that is traditionally allotted to an Opposition nominee.
As Roy did not resign as the MLA, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, moved a disqualification petition against him before the Speaker under the anti-defection law. In February, the Speaker dismissed Adhikari’s plea, following which he challenged the former’s order in the Calcutta High Court. Roy remained as the BJP legislator and the PAC chairman.
On April 11, the high court set aside the Speaker’s order and restored the matter for his fresh consideration. A division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava and Rajarshi Bharadwaj passed the order, reportedly asking the Speaker to take a decision on the press conference held on June 11 last year, where Roy joined the TMC, as “evidence”.
Adhikari then contended that Speaker Banerjee’s decision to allow Roy to retain the MLA’s position was practically rejected by the court.
Meanwhile, TMC spokesman Kunal Ghosh demanded the arrest of Roy, his senior party colleague, in connection with the Saradha and Narada scam cases while calling him a “BJP leader”. Taking to Twitter, Ghosh demanded that “CBI and ED should arrest BJP leader Mukul Roy in Saradha and Narada cases. I have already sent them a letter praying for joint interrogation with him. He is an influential conspirator. He has used different parties only for his personal protection. Mukul Roy should not be spared.”
In the wake of the high court’s order, the Speaker again heard Adhikari’s petition seeking Roy’s disqualification, and rejected it on June 8 saying he “did not find merit in the argument of the petitioner”.
Speaking to reporters then, Banerjee said, “I heard from both sides and elaborately discussed the earlier rulings cited by the petitioner. I have come to the conclusion that the petitioner has failed to prove his contention. The petitioner put the focus on electronic evidence. I took a note of those pieces of evidence, and those too failed to prove the charge.”
The Speaker also said, “Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari and MLA Ambika Roy had questioned the validity of the appointment of Mukul Roy as PAC chairman and sought his disqualification as MLA. They moved the court. The matter went to the Supreme Court from the high court but the honourable Supreme Court sent it back to the high court and the honourable high court asked me to pronounce my verdict within a month.”
The Speaker’s verdict set off a fresh bout of verbal duel between the BJP and the TMC, with Adhikari charging that “Speaker behaved like a TMC worker. We will again go to court.”
On his part, Ghosh said, “Mukul Roy is in BJP. But, TMC is a large-hearted party. If any old friend comes at our doorstep, we always welcome him and give him water.”
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