Ground Report From Krishnanagar: Mukul Roy’s ‘Loyalists’ In Trinamool Determined To Ensure Victory For Their Former Boss

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Apr 20, 2021 02:37 PM +05:30 IST
Ground Report From Krishnanagar: Mukul Roy’s ‘Loyalists’ In Trinamool Determined To Ensure Victory For Their Former BossBJP National VP Mukul Roy
  • A host of factors ranging from the goodwill of local Trinamool functionaries to the fear of Muslim assertiveness that may be triggered if the votes swing any other way, is set to ring in victory for former TMC Gen Sec and now BJP national vice-president Mukul Roy.

    Roy is contesting from Krishnanagar Uttar Assembly seat.

BJP national vice-president Mukul Roy seems to be poised for a sure win from Krishnanagar Uttar Assembly seat. And not just because this constituency, where the communists and the Congress had a strong presence, turned into a saffron stronghold two years ago.

Roy, who is contesting elections after two decades, has the support of a large number of local Trinamool functionaries who had worked under him when he was the number two in that party.

Mukul Roy, as the Trinamool’s powerful general secretary, was the go-to person for all organisational matters and had appointed many people in key positions at the district, sub-division and even the panchayat levels.

“He (Mukul Roy) is on first-name basis with most of us and knows all of us very well. He has kept in touch with us even after leaving the Trinamool. So naturally, we are supporting him,” said Bibhas Sarkar, a Trinamool functionary in Krishnanagar town.

Roy, considered to be a master strategist, has always kept himself away from contesting elections. His unsuccessful debut in the 2001 Assembly elections from Jagatdal in North 24 Parganas where he lost to Forward Bloc’s Haripada Biswas left a bad taste.

Since then, Roy has been content with playing the role of Trinamool’s primary backroom strategist.

He has ensured the victory of countless Trinamool candidates in panchayat, municipal, Assembly and Lok Sabha polls over the years, and thus enjoys a huge reservoir of goodwill from within the ranks of his former party.

Mukul Roy threw his hat in the electoral ring, albeit a bit reluctantly, on the urging of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

It was Shah who told Roy that an important role for him in a BJP government in the state would be incumbent on his electoral success.

Roy, incidentally, held senior ministerial positions in the Manmohan Singh government, but he had taken the Rajya Sabha route since he had always been averse to the hurly-burly of campaigning.

The BJP allotted a ‘safe seat’ to Roy. Krishnanagar Uttar, which had been represented by the CPI(M) and the Congress till 2006, sent Trinamool’s Abani Mohan Joardar to the Assembly in 2011 and 2016.

But in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, Krishnanagar Uttar gave BJP’s Kalyan Choubey a lead of more than 53,000 votes over Trinamool’s Mohua Moitra.

Krishnanagar Uttar is part of the Krishnanagar Lok Sabha constituency. Choubey got more than 1.5 lakh votes from Krishnanagar Uttar while Moitra polled a little over 62,000 votes from this Assembly segment.

From the look of it now, Krishnanagar Uttar is firmly with the BJP. The entire constituency comprising Krishnanagar town and five surrounding gram panchayats is awash with saffron.

Krishnanagar lends itself naturally to being a saffron stronghold. With over 90 per cent Hindus, this town and the entire Nadia district has been an ancient seat of Hindu kings and has produced many Hindu spiritual leaders.

Krishnanagar takes its name from Raja Krishnachandra Roy (1728-1782) who was a devout Hindu and famous for his successful resistance to Mughal rule. He was also a patron of the arts.

This place is also known for its textiles, handlooms, handicrafts and as the birthplace of many poets, religious figures, composers and revolutionaries.

“Steeped in Hindu culture and boasting of many devout and pious Hindus, and also being a centre of Hindu culture, Krishnanagar has quite naturally become a BJP citadel. People here have taken naturally to the BJP as a fish to water,” Debangshu Guha, a former professor of Bengali at Krishnanagar College, told Swarajya.

The BJP had a presence in Krishnanagar and in 1999, the saffron party’s Satyabrata Mookherjee (eminent Supreme Court lawyer and former Additional Solicitor General of India) was elected to the Lok Sabha from here.

But due to lack of a strong organisational base, the party could not grow in Krishnanagar. Also, the few who joined the BJP as office-bearers in the past faced strong opposition, including threats and physical attacks, from the communists, Congress and then the Trinamool.

The performance of the BJP in Krishnanagar Uttar in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was due to not only intensive efforts by the saffron party to build a base here and the ‘Modi wave’, but also because Krishnanagar provided a naturally fertile ground for the growth of the party.

Since then, the BJP has attracted a huge number of political enthusiasts from varied backgrounds joining the party in droves. The BJP has also become organisationally very strong here.

As a result, Krishnanagar Uttar has come to be looked upon as a ‘safe seat’ for the BJP. And it was thus quite natural for Mukul Roy to choose this seat to enter the state Assembly from.

The announcement of Mukul Roy’s candidature from Krishnanagar Uttar was met with a lot of enthusiasm not only in the saffron camp, but in the ranks of the Trinamool as well.

Roy knows many Trinamool functionaries here personally, and is considered to be a ‘guru’ and mentor by many in Mamata Banerjee’s party.

“I owe my political career to Mukulda. He was the one who spotted me and gave me major responsibilities. How can I not support him now? He may be in a rival party, but personal equations transcend political barriers,” said a Trinamool leader who held an important post in Krishnanagar Municipality.

What has also driven many Trinamool functionaries to silently work for or support Mukul Roy is the ‘imposition’ of an ‘outsider’ as the Trinamool candidate from this seat.

Mamata Banerjee’s declaration of the name of Tollywood B-lister Koushani Mukherjee as the party’s candidate from Krishnanagar Uttar was met with disbelief and a fair amount of resentment within the Trinamool camp.

The candidature of Mukherjee, a rank outsider, gave Trinamool functionaries all the more reason to support their former boss Mukul Roy.

Koushani Mukherjee also ran into controversy when she was caught on camera warning BJP supporters to vote wisely because they have womenfolk at home.

The implication was clear: mothers, sisters, wives and daughters of BJP supporters or cadres will not be safe if they continue to work for or support the BJP.

Many Trinamool functionaries distanced themselves from Koushani Mukherjee’s campaign when this video clip surfaced in the beginning of this month.

“Krishnanagar is a place known for its genteel culture and refinement. Such ugly threats have no place here, what she said was alien to our culture. Many have been completely put off by this,” said Mitali Mukherjee, a social activist who was closely involved in Mohua Moitra’s campaign in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Mukul Roy’s, and the BJP’s, own campaign has been generating a very enthusiastic response. Apart from Roy’s roadshows and rallies, Prime Minister Modi addressed huge rallies in Nadia and Amit Shah’s roadshow in support of Mukul Roy also attracted record crowds.

The BJP has deployed all its resources and its formidable election machinery to ensure Mukul Roy’s win. Roy’s campaign, thus, has gained a huge edge over the Trinamool’s.

Another factor that is driving support for the BJP is the popular quest to ‘avenge’ the defeat of Kalyan Choubey (the BJP candidate) in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

“People of Krishnanagar are unhappy because despite voting so overwhelmingly for Kalyan Choubey in 2019, he lost to Trinamool’s Mohua Moitra. Moitra won because of the lead she got from some of other Assembly segments in the Krishnanagar Lok Sabha seat where Muslims form a large chunk of the electorate. So people here are vocal and open in their support for the BJP this time,” said Mrinal Kanti Das, a popular private tutor in Baruihuda area of Krishnanagar.

The sentiments expressed by Das find wide resonance here. “We want the BJP to win. Our mandate in the last (2019) elections did not get reflected in the results ultimately. This time we want to be doubly sure that the BJP candidate wins and so we are all supporting the BJP very openly and ensuring that everyone votes for the BJP,” said Kalipada Das, a former headmaster of a government school in Krishnanagar.

There is a silent Hindu consolidation on the ground in response to Muslims in the neighbouring areas voting en masse for the Trianmool in 2019.

It has helped that the BJP’s candidate is Mukul Roy who is looked upon as a bhadralok. And his image as a genteel, soft-spoken and friendly person who strikes an easy rapport with everyone has helped.

Yet another issue, though a very subtle one, that is adding tailwind to the BJP’s campaign is the fear among Hindus about being swamped by Bangladeshi-origin Muslims.

Many areas around Krishnanagar, which is barely 40 kilometers from the Indo-Bangladesh border, has seen the Muslim population rising sharply over the past few decades due to largescale illegal influx of Bangladeshi Muslims.

Hindus of Krishnanagar dread the prospect of the Muslim population rising. A rise in the population of Muslims, they apprehend, will trigger Muslim assertiveness that will cause problems for them (the Hindus).

“Many Hindus here, especially in the peripheral areas of Krishnanagar town and in the villages in the Krishnanagar Uttar Assembly constituency, belong to the Scheduled Castes. Most of them are descendants of people who have had to flee persecution from East Bengal, East Pakistan and then Bangladesh. They do not want to relive the horrors that their parents and grandparents faced and fled,” said Kunal Bose, a teacher of political science at Calcutta University. Bose hails from Krishnanagar.

Victory for Mukul Roy, thus, seems certain. Many in the Trinamool camp also concede this. The only discussion among the residents of Krishnanagar is what will be Roy’s margin of victory.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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