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ANALYSIS | Mamata Banerjee's Bypoll Sweep Blurs Mukul Roy's 'Bengal Chanakya' Image

The Trinamool Congress won the Noapara Assembly and Uluberia Lok Sabha bypolls with a big margin despite BJP leader Mukul Roy’s efforts to swing votes away from his former party.

Sougata Mukhopadhyay, Sujit Nath

Updated:February 2, 2018, 11:31 AM IST
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ANALYSIS | Mamata Banerjee's Bypoll Sweep Blurs Mukul Roy's 'Bengal Chanakya' Image
File photo of BJP leader Mukul Roy.
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Kolkata: There are some who believe that BJP’s Mukul Roy is the Chanakya of Bengal’s politics. But the results of the bypolls — on one Lok Sabha and one Assembly seat — seem to suggest that Roy failed to deliver for his party, unlike what he is believed to have repeatedly done for Mamata Banerjee while in the Trinamool Congress.

The BJP, which perceptively posed a formidable threat to the ruling Trinamool in the Noapara Assembly and Uluberia Lok Sabha seats, was comprehensively routed in both, despite Roy deploying considerable time and energy to swing non-BJP votes in the party’s favour.

At Noapara in North 24 Parganas district, which is ironically the place where Roy lives, the BJP barely edged past the ailing CPI(M) to secure a distant second position.

Trinamool Congress’ Sunil Singh won the seat with a thumping 1,11,729 votes, while BJP’s Sandip Banerjee finished with 38,711 votes. CPM’s Gargi Chatterjee was at number three with 35,497 votes.

Roy, for all his perceived political acumen and managerial skills, failed to capitalise on the fact that there was no electoral understanding between the CPM and Congress this time around, an alliance which helped the Congress win the seat in 2016.

In fact, numbers show that it’s the Trinamool Congress which gained most from the breakdown of the Left-Congress alliance that forced a quadrangular battle in both seats.

At Uluberia, Sajda Ahmed, the widow of Trinamool MP Sultan Ahmed and a political greenhorn, registered a win with a record margin of nearly 4.75 lakh votes over her nearest BJP rival Anupam Mallik, president of the party’s rural segment of Howrah district and a seasoned political campaigner.

Here, too, Roy had spearheaded the party’s campaigns and virtually camped in the region for days on end to see the BJP through.

All those efforts evidently came to a naught even as the party’s state president Dilip Ghosh sought solace in the fact that the BJP has firmly established itself as the principal opposition party in the state.

“It is no mean achievement to secure the number two position and our vote share has significantly increased. The results could have been different if the polls were free and fair,” Ghosh said, alleging that the Trinamool polarised votes on religious grounds in Uluberia where nearly 40 percent voters are Muslims.

The results vindicated Trinamool’s stand — that Mukul’s exit from the party would hardly jeopardise its support base since Mamata Banerjee’s popularity remains intact.

“As long as people are with us, no amount of political opposition can cause us harm. The results show that people of Bengal have hailed the development path charted out by the Mamata Banerjee-led government of West Bengal,” said Trinamool leader Partha Chatterjee.

“The CPM and the Congress are getting virtually obliterated because of their blind opposition to Mamata Banerjee, which is helping the BJP. They should rethink their stand when it is clear that the people of Bengal are not approving this blind opposition,” Chatterjee said.

Merely a day before the bypoll counting, Mamata called Mukul a “gaddar” (traitor) at a programme in Kolkata attended by the cross section of Trinamool leaders without, of course, naming him. The coinage drew cheers from those attending the meet.

Asked about how Mukul Roy could have impacted the election outcome, Trinamool victor from Noapara Sunil Singh said, “There was too much hype… but see the results. He could not make any difference”.

It may be recalled that Roy had trouble even while strategising for the bypolls.

In early January, his reported attempts at convincing Trinamool MLA Manju Basu to contest on a BJP ticket fell flat when the latter backed out after the party announced her name.

Although Roy alleged that Basu was forced to step aside in the wake of “serious intimidation” by the Trinamool, reports said a section of an embarrassed BJP leadership blamed Roy for failing to smartly execute the job.

Mukul Roy remained unavailable for comment since the bypoll debacle.

His next big challenge are the upcoming Panchayat polls in the state. The task of taking on the Trinamool in Bengal’s countryside would be far from easy.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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