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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Mukul Roy: The pied piper in West Bengal Assembly elections

Mamata may denounce them as ‘rats’, but Trinamool is hurting as former No. 2 Mukul Roy woos over her leaders to BJP, helps build the party.

Written by Santanu Chowdhury | Kolkata |
Updated: March 9, 2021 7:18:26 am
Narendra Modi adjusting a memento pagri as Mukul Roy looks on at Rasmela ground, Coachbehar during a BJP election rally. (Express Photo by Partha Paul/File)

The former No. 2 of Mamata Banerjee, 66-year-old Mukul Roy is among the chief architects of the BJP’s slow and steady build-up in West Bengal. This includes chipping away at the Trinamool’s edifice, by helping the BJP wean away leaders from the party.

The party’s national vice-president, Roy is now part of every frame in the BJP’s Bengal campaign. If there is resentment over not being counted as among the chief ministerial hopefuls, Roy hasn’t shown it, as he asserts the BJP’s target: “Iss bar 200 paar (This time, more than 200 seats).” The West Bengal Assembly has 294 MLAs.

Roy started his political career as a Youth Congress leader, around the same time as Mamata Banerjee was part of the outfit. He was among the founding members of the All India Trinamool Congress when Mamata floated it in January 1998 after splitting from the Congress. Soon Roy emerged as the party’s face in Delhi, and in 2006, was made its general secretary and earned a berth in the Rajya Sabha. In the UPA II government, he served initially as Minister of State, Shipping, before becoming Railways Minister — a portfolio Mamata held till she moved to Bengal as the CM.

Roy’s tenure though was brief, as in September 2012, the Trinamool exited the UPA coalition over its clearance to 51% FDI in retail and aviation sector.

Roy and Mamata finally fell out in 2015 after his name came up in the Saradha scam as well as the Narada sting operation allegedly involving Trinamool leaders.

In September 2017, Roy was suspended from the Trinamool for six years. He formally joined the BJP in November.

The man dubbed “Chanakya” of Bengal politics has since been working on the ground helping the BJP build base in the state, and is credited with the party winning 18 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Among the leaders believed to have been brought to the BJP by Roy are his son and MLA Subrangsu Roy, apart from Trinamool legislators Sovan Chatterjee and Sabyasachi Dutta, and Sunil Singh, Biswajit Das, Wilson Champamary, and Mihir Goswami. He also played a key role in the BJP’s success in wooing over Trinamool stars such as Suvendu Adhikari, Rajib Banerjee and Jitendra Tiwari.

On Monday, five more sitting Trinamool MLAs — Sonali Gula, considered close to Mamata; Rabindranath Bhattacharya, a prominent face of the Singur land agitation; Jatu Lahiri; Sital Sardar; and Dipendu Biswas — switched to the BJP. Guha said she was moving to the BJP on the request of “Mukul da”.

In her latest swipe at “gaddar” Roy and other deserters, Mamata said after the Enforcement Directorate questioning of her nephew Abhishek Banerjee’s wife, “The tiger cub is not scared of cats or rats.”

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