West Bengal

Mukul Roy quits Trinamool

Print edition : October 27, 2017

Mukul Roy after announcing his resignation from the Trinamool Congress on September 25. Photo: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI

IN a development that may have far-reaching consequences for the politics of West Bengal, Mukul Roy, one of the most powerful leaders in the ruling Trinamool Congress, quit the party on September 25 after years of acrimony with party supremo Mamata Banerjee. Announcing his resignation from the party’s working committee just ahead of the Durga Puja season, Mukul Roy, a founder-member of the Trinamool Congress, said he would resign from the party’s primary membership and give up his Rajya Sabha membership once the festive season ended.

“I was one of the first signatories to the Trinamool Congress when the party began its journey on December 17, 1997. At present I hold no party post except that of member of the working committee and a Trinamool Rajya Sabha member. It is with a heavy heart that I am telling you that I have emailed my resignation from the working committee. I will also tender my resignation from primary membership of the party and Rajya Sabha after the Puja,” Mukul Roy announced at a press conference.

The Trinamool Congress did not wait for the festivities to end, and suspended him for six years. “We are told that he has decided to quit the party after the Puja. Why wait?” said Trinamool secretary general Partha Chatterjee. “He (Mukul Roy) acted under pressure from Central agencies for his own self-interest and tried to harm the party. The party was keeping a close watch on him, and we decided to take action the moment he crossed the line,” said Chatterjee. Mukul Roy's son, Subhrangshu Roy, the Trinamool MLA from Bijpur, said he had no plan to quit the party.

Mukul Roy’s fall from grace within the Trinamool began when he deposed before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in January 2015 in connection with the multi-crore Saradha scam. Several top Trinamool leaders, including party heavyweight and the then Cabinet Minister Madan Mitra and Rajya Sabha member Kunal Ghosh, were arrested in connection with the fund collection scam which ruined lakhs of investors, most of whom were from the poorer sections of society. It was from this period onwards that Mukul Roy’s perceived closeness to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) further alienated him from the Trinamool leadership. He was soon removed from all party posts but remained a Rajya Sabha member. He was also conspicuous by his absence in practically all important public functions of the Trinamool.

Moreover, according to Trinamool insiders, Mukul Roy’s importance in the party was on the wane with the concurrent rise of Abhishek Banerjee, Mamata Banerjee’s nephew who is now the second in command in the party. “It was difficult for a person of Mukul Roy’s stature to find himself unceremoniously removed from his position [of importance] and replaced by a greenhorn; after all, his contribution to the party has been immense,” said a Trinamool insider close to Mukul Roy.

Mukul Roy’s departure, though not unexpected, has nevertheless left the rank and file of the party shaken. He was known to be a master strategist, whose unparalleled organisational skills brought electoral success to his party time and again. Apart from being a member of the Rajya Sabha, he held a number of key posts, including general secretary of the Trinamool and national vice president of the party. For a brief period (March 20 to September 21, 2012), he was the Railway Minister as well.

Though never a mass leader, Mukul Roy always enjoyed a strong following within the party even during his sidelined days, and now there are concerns among certain sections of the Trinamool that his action may inspire other disgruntled members to follow suit. Sending out a clear signal to those who may be tempted to side with Mukul, Partha Chatterjee said: “Those who insult the party by forging ties with the BJP and other political parties, keeping their own party leadership in darkness, those who try to weaken the party… I appeal to them to mend their ways. The party has severed all its ties with Mukul Roy.”

As of October 2, Mukul Roy had not yet officially stated his next course of action, although the political buzz is that he is very likely to join the BJP. “He would not have left the Trinamool without an assurance from the highest level in the BJP. We would not be interested if he were to form another party and support us,” a top BJP source told Frontline.

The BJP hopes that once Mukul Roy joins the party, other leaders—and not just from the Trinamool—will also cross over to the BJP camp. “What the West Bengal BJP lacks today is leadership. Mukul Roy’s presence, particularly during elections, will no doubt make a big difference. Moreover, for the BJP to succeed, it has to first defeat the Trinamool, and who knows the Trinamool and its weaknesses better than Mukul?” said a State-level BJP leader.

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay