Kolkata: In the last scene of Satyajit Ray’s Sonar Kella, the protagonist, a young boy named Mukul, says, “I want to go home.”
This subtitled still from the film became the subject of memes on Friday, June 11, when BJP national vice-president Mukul Roy, once Mamata Banerjee’s right-hand-man, returned to the TMC fold after spending 44 months at BJP.
Announcing Roy’s induction to the party, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said, “Ghorer chhele ghore phirlo (the prodigal son returns). We welcome him back.”
At the press conference, Roy told reporters, “Coming here, it feels good to see my old colleagues. I am happy that Bengal will regain its old glory under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee, who is a national leader.”
Roy, along with his son Subhranshu, rejoined the TMC at the party headquarters in the presence of Banerjee, and party veterans like Partha Chatterjee, Subrata Bakshi, Subrata Mukherjee, Firhad Hakim and Abhishek Banerjee, Banerjee’s nephew who was recently elevated to national general secretary.
“Mukul is an old boy of our family. Nobody can stay in the BJP. They do not allow anyone to live with dignity and peace. Mukul was threatened by probe agencies. His health was getting affected. He will have mental peace here,” Banerjee said at the brief press conference.
Roy was one of the founding members of the TMC in 1998, and remained the second in command of the party until his exit in November 2017. He had served as the railway minister in the United Progressive Alliance II government.
When asked about the role Roy is going to play in the party, Banerjee said, “We will decide later what post Mukul will hold. He was the vice-president of BJP. Since he has left, it is clear that he was not satisfied working with them. He is here out on his own will. BJP is a party of landlords. It controls the agencies.”
Roy avoided most questions asked by the media and said that he would issue a written statement on why he quit BJP, what made him join TMC and his future plans.
This comes two days after BJP leader and the leader of opposition in Bengal assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, challenged TMC – his former party – and especially Abhishek Banerjee, to poach even one BJP MLA.
Two weeks ago, Roy’s son wrote a cryptic message on social media saying, “Self-introspection is required before criticising a government that has come to power with the people’s mandate.” The Wire reported on June 9 that Roy had asked his associates spread in various districts, who had joined BJP, to stop working for the saffron party.
Roy and his son both contested the state assembly election on BJP tickets, while Roy managed to win the Krishnanagar assembly seat, Subhranshu was defeated from Bijpur. Since the BJP’s election drubbing in Bengal, Roy had maintained complete silence.
Kashem Ali, a close associate of Roy, said, “At least 20 BJP MLAs and many party workers are likely to join TMC in the coming days. BJP will break like a pack of cards. Just wait and watch.”
On the question of more joining the party from the rebel camp, the TMC supremo said, “More people will come. But those who betrayed our party for money will not be considered. We will take only those who do not spread bitterness.”
Mukul Roy, BJP’s first catch from TMC, had played an important role in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, in which the saffron party won 18 of 42 seats. He was instrumental in affecting the move of a few key leaders from his old party, most of whom won with BJP tickets in 2019.
Roy, however, was never given any plum positions either in the BJP or in the government. The Wire reported in July 2020 that Roy was unhappy with BJP leadership, especially that of the state and had started distancing himself. He even stopped visiting the state BJP office a few months ago. Largely in order to placate him, almost three years after he joined the saffron camp, BJP made him the national vice-president.
After BJP inducted Suvendu Adhikari in its ranks in December last year, the party projected Adhikari as the leader to fight the election. All crucial decisions in the party were reportedly taken by Adhikari and state president Dilip Ghosh in consultation with central leadership.
Roy had by then been completely sidelined and was hardly seen in assembly election campaigns.
BJP making him the candidate from far flung Krishnanagar also reportedly irked him. A section in the BJP believed that the party had failed to utilise him to the fullest capacity and overemphasised Adhikari’s influence. “He (Mukul Roy) was upset as well as disappointed with the way the party fought the elections. He was sidelined, he was not made part of the major decision making process,” said a Bengal BJP leader, who requested anonymity.
Roy’s frustration was amplified by the BJP’s defeat in the Bengal election. Among his close circles, Roy is understood to have been vocal with the sentiment that BJP had failed to understand Bengal’s political culture, traditions and ethos.
Roy’s wife, Krishna, was recently critically ill and admitted to a private hospital in Kolkata. No one from the BJP’s state leadership is understood to have enquired after her. Meanwhile, Abhishek Banerjee, on June 3, went to see her in the hospital and even met Subranshu. Soon after Abhishek’s visit, Dilip Ghosh paid a visit to the hospital. The next morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also called Roy to ask after her.
Reacting to Roy rejoining TMC, state BJP president Ghosh said, “I don’t have time to speak about this. My party workers are being beaten up by TMC and I am currently working for them.”
BJP’s Swapan Dasgupta who lost the election from Tarakeswar and then was renominated to Rajya Sabha as an MP tweeted:
An election setback is of concern. The task of Bengal BJP is to draw the lessons & move ahead. These steps are underway & will become evident. There’s no cause for new & old karyakartas to be dispirited & go into a shell. BJP will build on the 2.2 crore votes & enlarge its reach.
— Swapan Dasgupta (@swapan55) June 11, 2021
BJP workers have been revolting at the grassroots level across Bengal, amidst allegations of massive organisational breakdown.
Allegations are also rife of BJP leadership abandoning workers amidst political violence and allegations of intimidation by TMC leaders.
In the meantime, TMC has said that after it captured two gram panchayats in BJP strongholds, a large number of leaders at the grassroots levels have expressed the desire to join or rejoin TMC.
Note: This article has replaced a PTI report on Mukul Roy rejoining TMC, first published on the evening of June 11, 2021.