No Surprises: What Mukul Roy's Exit Means And What It Doesn't For The BJP In Bengal

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Jun 11, 2021 09:25 PM +05:30 IST
No Surprises: What Mukul Roy's Exit Means And What It Doesn't For The BJP In BengalMukul Roy back in Trinamool
Snapshot
  • Roy leaves a BJP that hardly showed any interest in holding him back and returns to a party where his former post is now occupied by the chosen successor of the supremo.

Contrary to what is being said by many in political circles in Bengal, Mukul Roy’s departure came as no surprise to the BJP leadership and many in the central leadership knew it was only a matter of time before he returned to the Trinamool.

The BJP central leadership took no steps to retain Roy, who was made the national vice-president of the party in September last year, in the party.

In fact, some top party leaders told Swarajya that the BJP central leadership was not unhappy to see Mukul Roy exit the party and return to the Trinamool. That’s because the BJP central leadership felt that Roy was well past his political utility and would not be able to play any meaningful role within the party now.

Mukul Roy’s role and conduct since November-December last year had left the party leadership dissatisfied.

“Many central leaders felt that Roy was not giving his best to the party and was only keen on getting disgruntled leaders and functionaries from the Trinamool into the BJP. The mistake was to allow him to do so and get taken in by his assurances that these Trinamool turncoats would strengthen the BJP and cause immense damage to the Trinamool,” said the BJP leader.

It was also a mistake, concede many in the BJP, to give him an important post like that of the national vice-president. That happened because some senior BJP leaders allowed themselves to be misled by Mukul Roy, and those leaders are already facing the heat now.

So it was inevitable that Mukul Roy would also be held responsible for the less-than-expected outcome of the Assembly elections.

Perhaps sensing that, immediately after the election results were announced on May 2, Roy and his son Subhrangshu started sending feelers secretly to the Trinamool.

Roy, in a message sent through an interlocutor to Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, reminded her that he had never made any personal attacks on her and had also desisted from criticising the Trinamool too harshly even during the high-voltage poll campaign.

The BJP central leadership was reportedly unhappy with the manner in which Mukul Roy misled them into accepting Trinamool turncoats.

Roy insisted that these turncoats be given BJP tickets and gave solemn assurances that they (the defectors) would win. Almost all of them lost.

“Either Roy had lost his touch and his political acumen, or he deliberately sabotaged the party’s prospects. So either way, he had to leave and its best for the party that he did so now,” said another state-level BJP leader.

Had he not left, he would have been sidelined in the BJP. Though he may not have been removed from the post of national vice-president immediately, he would not be given any responsibilities or importance.

A few BJP old-timers who were not too happy with Roy’s entry into the BJP in 2017 and have been wary of him since then told Swarajya that Roy’s political skills were highly overrated.

“He has never been in active politics and was never a leader with a mass base. When he was in Trinamool, he had always been a backroom boy managing organisational matters and ensuring the smooth functioning of the party machinery. He possessed, at best, moderate to good secretarial skills,” said a BJP old-timer who had watched Roy function from close quarters.

“He did not bring much to the Trinamool table. People call him the ‘Chanakya’ of Bengal politics, but he was far from that. Within the BJP also he did not contribute much,” this BJP leader said.

It is widely conceded, though, that Mukul Roy knew a whole lot of Trinamool functionaries down to the grassroots level. A number of these functionaries did join the BJP, and many of them have proved to be assets for the party.

Though the BJP’s good performance in Bengal in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections is attributed to Mukul Roy, some insiders say that was never the case.

Roy did rope in disgruntled Trinamool leaders like Arjun Singh in Barrackpore and Nishit Pramanik and John Barla in North Bengal before the 2019 elections. These three, and some others that Roy brought over from the Trinamool, won the elections two years ago. But they have charted their own paths in the BJP independent of Roy. Pramanik, Barla and Singh are key leaders of the BJP in Bengal and are well-regarded within the party.

Mukul Roy also played an important role in paving the entry of Subhendu Adhikari into the BJP. It speaks volumes about Roy that Adhikari completely upstaged the latter and is poised to be the face of the BJP in Bengal.

“He had been a good and efficient assistant to Mamata Banerjee, and that was all. His political skills, if they ever existed, are blunt now,” said another senior BJP leader.

Many in the BJP point out that Roy won the Krishnanagar North Assembly seat this time not on his own merit but because of the massive help he received in terms of manpower and resources from the party. Also, the Krishnanagar North seat was a relatively easy pick for the BJP and any candidate put up by the saffron party would have won from there.

This is the first election that Roy has ever won in his ‘political’ career--he contested and lost from Jagatdal in the 2001 Assembly polls and had stayed away from electoral politics since then.

Roy was reluctant to contest elections this time too and it was only on the BJP central leadership’s insistence that he did so.

It is also being said that many BJP MLAs and MPs will follow Mukul Roy to the Trinamool. But their numbers are not yet clear.

For one, Mukul Roy will have to rope in at least 25 other MLAs from the BJP to escape the provisions of the anti-defection law.

Or else, all those who defect from the BJP to the Trinamool will have to forego their membership of the Assembly and contest elections afresh. That is a prospect few will relish.

It is highly improbable for 25 BJP MLAs to defect to the Trinamool en masse. And it is also unlikely that any of the 18 BJP Lok Sabha MPs from Bengal will join the Trinamool.

With three more years to go for the next Lok Sabha elections, no MP would want to lose his or her membership of Parliament right now and contest elections afresh.

As for Roy, he is unlikely to get back his earlier position--he was the national general secretary of the Trinamool when he quit the party. That post is now occupied by Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek.

For Mamata Banerjee, Mukul Roy’s exit from the BJP and return to the Trinamool makes for good optics. His return to the Trinamool provided Mamata Banerjee a good opportunity to score a political point over the BJP. But she is unlikely to place much trust in Mukul Roy and his son Subhrangshu again.

Trinamool did not need his help to win the just-concluded Assembly elections or to hold itself together organisationally over the last four years that he was away from the party.

In these four years, many other leaders have filled the vacuum that Mukul Roy left behind in his old party. These leaders are unlikely to yield any space to him, and Mamata Banerjee also has no reason to upset the applecart to accommodate Mukul Roy now.

In the final analysis, the BJP loses little with Mukul Roy’s exit, and the Trinamool also has little to gain with his return.

The only losers here are Mukul Roy and his son. It seems to be the end of the political road for them.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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