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Mukul Roy’s Elevation, BJP’s Choice of Turncoats Over Veterans Shows BJP Will Go to Any Length to Beat Mamata

File photo of newly-appointed BJP national vice president Mukul Roy.

File photo of newly-appointed BJP national vice president Mukul Roy.

Mukul Roy will face his toughest challenge yet, maintaining a delicate balance in avoiding any rift in the state leadership while also working on strategies to defeat West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress next year.

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Sujit Nath

Kolkata: With Mukul Roy’s elevation in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – from national executive member to vice-president – party insiders say he will play an important role in the selection of candidates for next year's assembly polls in West Bengal.

Given Mukul’s deep roots in the ruling camp, as he was a founder member of the Trinamool Congress, BJP wants to utilise his long association with Mamata Banerjee because sources say no one knows better than him about the booth-level disadvantages and advantages of the TMC in Bengal.

The list of newly appointed office-bearers approved by BJP president JP Nadda on September 26 shows the party's eagerness to win the Bengal elections at any cost, even if it means keeping the turncoats at the front to lead the battle.

The organisational restructuring of the BJP's central unit sparked discontent as leaders like Rahul Sinha, who was dropped as national secretary to make way for another TMC turncoat, Anupam Hazra, expressed displeasure over Nadda’s decision.

Sinha, in a video message (both in Hindi and Bangla), said, "For 40 years I have served the BJP as a soldier. I have to step aside because a Trinamool Congress leader is coming. There can be nothing more unfortunate than this reward for serving the BJP since the beginning. I don’t want to comment much on this matter. I don’t want to judge (whether it is wrong or right). In the coming 10-12 days, I will decide my future course of action.”

For several months, Mukul Roy was having a tough time in the state BJP unit because of differences with the old guard, including Rahul Sinha and Dilip Ghosh.

But the newly appointed office-bearers’ list clearly shows that the party's central leadership can go to any extent, even if they need to sideline veterans, as far as defeating Mamata is concerned.

Roy, who had called himself "the Garry Sobers of Indian politics", had once told News18, "Today, once again I am saying that whenever cricket will exist in this world, people will always remember Garry Sobers. Similarly, jab tak politics rahega, humko koi ignore nahi kar sakega (as long as there is politics, no one can ignore me)."

The same day, while commenting on Roy, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh had said, "There are no differences. I am no one to give a certificate to Mukul Roy. He told me that he is in the BJP and he will remain in the BJP. All I want to say is that I am a front-foot player."

The statements from Roy and Ghosh had come in August amid crucial back-to-back meetings in the party including one between BJP president JP Nadda and the Bengal unit chief in Delhi, and Kailash Vijayvargiya (BJP in-charge of West Bengal) with Roy in Kolkata’s Salt Lake.

Such was the urgency that Vijayvargiya flew down to Kolkata to meet Roy (the national executive member who was put in charge of the Lok Sabha election in 2019) in anticipation of the 2021 assembly polls in West Bengal, while Ghosh went to Delhi to meet Nadda.

Now, crowned with a crucial party post, the challenges for Roy are going to get bigger as he has to maintain a balance in avoiding any rift in the state leadership while also working on strategies to defeat the TMC in 2021.

When contacted on the issue, TMC MP Saugata Roy said, “Whom to elevate is the BJP’s internal matter but all I can say is the rift in the state BJP leadership was there for long and now it came out in public. There is no doubt about the internal rift in the BJP. The party is becoming weaker in Bengal because of people’s rejection. Due to this discontent, many lower-rank BJP workers are joining the TMC now as they believe in Mamata Banerjee.”

Political experts feel that Rahul Sinha’s open discontent is likely to be followed by others who are close to him and this is certainly going to be a big problem for Mukul and other turn coats that joined the BJP from TMC.

Speaking to News18, political experts, Kapil Thakur, said, “Central BJP leadership has realized that barring few state leaders (as majority of them failed to create any impact in Bengal’s politics), it will be difficult for them to fight against the ruling TMC. Out of 18 Lok Sabha seats, three leaders who won were with the TMC.

However, Anupam Hazra lost that election and despite that Rahul Sinha was replaced with former TMC leader. Rest won because of the anti-TMC vote. The by-poll results were an eye-opener for the central BJP leaders as they lost all the three seats in Bengal. Despite remarkable performance in the last Lok Sabha, they lost three by-poll seats in a row. This includes Dilip Ghosh's own constituency.”

On Roy’s elevation, he said, “Till his presence in the state BJP, he will continuously face problems with the old guard. This is not going to end here. Now he has two challenges – one to fight Mamata, and the other to deal with his own party leaders. Already, you can see how BJP leaders at the district-level are venting their ire over giving more importance to the TMC workers who joined the BJP. Recently, a few important BJP leaders from Kharagpur have joined the TMC. It is not going to be an easy task for Mukul to steer the team towards a win. I think it is the last nail in the coffin of Mukul’s political career.”

CPI(M) leader Amiya Patra termed Roy a "seasonal bird" and "highly opportunist" with no ideology. "I don’t want to comment anything about a person (Mukul Roy) who doesn’t have any ideology. They can sell themselves to get the ‘chair’. But I must say Rahul Sinha is not like him. His track record is not like Mukul Roy. But why he was sidelined is purely the BJP’s internal matter and I would not be able to say anything on this issue.”

On September 25, 2017, in a major setback for the TMC, Roy resigned from the party’s working committee.

Addressing a press conference at Nizam Palace in Kolkata, he had announced his resignation from the party's primary membership and as a Rajya Sabha member.

Roy's move came days after Mamata Banerjee in a core committee meeting warned party leaders against hobnobbing with BJP people in Delhi. She had said those who wanted to join other parties were free to go but no anti-party activities would be tolerated.

On August 30, 2017, Roy was removed from the chairman’s post of the standing committee on transport, tourism and culture in the Rajya Sabha for his alleged proximity to BJP leaders in Delhi.

Since Roy was questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the Saradha Ponzi scheme in 2015, his relationship with Mamata had turned bitter as he had reportedly assured full cooperation to the probe agency.

When the TMC was formed in 1997, Roy was among the first leaders to join the party. He was the non-executive director of the United Bank of India (UBI) from 2002 to 2005. In April 2006, he became a member of Rajya Sabha from West Bengal and was later appointed a member of the committee on urban development in August 2006. The same year, he became a member of the consultative committee in the ministry of home affairs.

For Mamata, he was the most trusted party worker and had actively worked for her in protesting against the land acquisition by Bengal's the-then Left Front government at Singur and Nandigram. In April 2008, Mamata made him the party's all-India general secretary and the next year he became minister of state in the shipping ministry.

Presently, Roy is with the BJP and with his elevation in the party as vice president – he lent credence to his claim of being the "Garry Sobers of Indian politics".

"Let’s leave no stone unturned to inculcate the ideology and vision of the BJP among the people of India. I will march ahead to fulfil this aim as vice-president. I am thankful to all for the wishes. I express my sincere gratitude to everyone for the overwhelming support," Roy tweeted.

But the BJP’s central leadership preferring turncoats over veterans is expecting to cause upheaval in the saffron brigade ahead of the state polls next year.


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