New Delhi: A meeting between BJP leader Mukul Roy and Bidhannagar mayor Sabyasachi Dutta at the latter’s residence has fuelled speculation that the TMC leader might cross over to the saffron party ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
The meeting is significant because Roy had once been Dutta’s mentor and the two have claimed to not have had contact since Roy got into the BJP. Moreover, Dutta holds considerable sway over Dum Dum and Barasat Lok Sabha constituencies adjacent to Kolkata.
Dutta, an MLA from Rajarhat New Town, was at the centre of the BJP’s campaign against the TMC ahead of the 2016 Assembly polls. Dutta, the BJP had alleged, had links to the ‘syndicate’ - a euphemism for an extortion racket in areas witnessing a realty boom, wherein cartels - comprising unemployed youths backed by the ruling party - use clout and the threat of violence to force contractors into buying inferior building materials from them at a premium.
Although Dutta has long denied any link to illegal activities, in a 2016 sting he was seen talking about his association with the Rajarhat syndicate and in his election rallies; he spoke about how “syndicates give jobs to the poor.”
Dutta, TMC leaders added, had “unquestionable influence” across the Rajarhat area – an area once punctuated by villages and wetlands which has now been at the heart of a massive development boom. One leader said, “He is a very important cog in the TMC’s election machinery and is very influential in Dum Dum and Barasat.”
Meanwhile, both Roy and Dutta refuted the speculation, maintaining that the two-hour long visit was a courtesy visit.
Speaking to News18, Dutta said, “The relationship between me and Mukul da is above any party line. We did not meet yesterday for the first time. Mukul da called me and asked if I was at home and expressed his desire to meet me along with his wife. It was a wonderful evening we spent together as we are like one family. He wanted to have luchi and aludum (puri sabzi) and my wife made it. We discussed cricket, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, and our political movements together (against the Left), including Chamkaitala in Midnapore).”
“I would like to clarify that my mentor and leader is Mamata Banerjee and will continue to be one. She is a great leader and without her I am zero. I am not joining the BJP and the speculation is wrong,” he added.
On his absence from today’s TMC core committee meeting at Madhyamgram, he said, “I have not been keeping well for the last two days and have informed the party leadership about this.”
Dutta, TMC leaders added, is a known “Mukul-loyalist” but had stayed on with the TMC after Mukul Roy rebelled and eventually joined the BJP in 2017 after differences with CM Mamata Banerjee.
Although Roy maintained that Sabyasachi is like his “younger brother,” and he visited the latter only to “enquire” about his well being, he had hinted in an interview last month to News18 that many in the TMC would soon join the BJP.
He said, “Soumitra Khan (Lok Sabha MP from Bishnupur) joined the BJP and the TMC immediately slapped six cases against him. All senior MPs and senior leaders are waiting for the announcement of the elections, so that the administration is in the hands of the EC. Then many sitting MPs will join the BJP.”
Although, that TMC maintained that they were keeping “a close eye on the developments” – party sources added that the leadership was worried. “Dutta is a number of things. But he is also a serial winner. He rose up the ranks and then won the polls in 2011, defeating the Left who had ruled in the area undefeated since 1962.”
“Moreover, if you just look at the two seats – Barasat and Dum Dum and the results of 2014, it is a bit worrying. In Dum Dum, we got 42% - but the combination of CPI(M) and the BJP was more than that. You see the same thing at Barasat. It shows that there is an anti TMC sentiment here, which Roy is trying to exploit,” the leader added.