There will be a temptation to interpret Mukul Roy's resignation from Trinamool Congress working committee as a 'big jolt' to Mamata Banerjee. Roy was coy about the details on Monday. He didn't say whether he will join any other party, or float his own. He merely announced that he will wait until after Durga Puja to relinquish the post of Rajya Sabha MP, submit the primary membership and divulge the reasons behind his decision.
Commentators, however, were quick to point out Roy's purported links with the BJP and describe the development as a blow to TMC ahead of next year's Panchayat polls. This is a likely misreading of the situation. Political watchers in Bengal are aware that Roy's quitting was a foregone conclusion, and it makes very little difference to the ruling party which, in a subsequent news conference, suspended the senior leader for six years for indulging in "anti-party activities" and for "trying to weaken the party form within". TMC also demanded that instead of waiting till the end of the festive season, Roy should relinquish his Rajya Sabha post right now.
Admittedly, Roy's resignation does dovetail with the narrative of BJP trying to aggressively expand its presence in the east, and the former TMC all-India general secretary could lend BJP the weight it badly needs in the state.
For all its recent gains and emergence as the chief Opposition party, the saffron unit still has a long way to go to even remotely challenge TMC's hegemony. One of the many shortcomings the BJP suffers from in Bengal is the lack of a heavyweight local leader who may give shape to the anti-incumbency sentiment and assimilate the resentment against Mamata Banerjee's blatant minority-ism (which has drawn flak from even the courts) while not alienating Bengalis, a majority of whom consider Hindutva politics as 'alien' to their culture. It is here that Roy might help bridge the gap.
The former TMC vice-president was once considered the unofficial Number two and it won’t be too dramatic to define him as Mamata's Ahmed Patel. His tactical acumen, organisational skills and 'poll management' abilities are widely acknowledged to have been instrumental in building the party from scratch and his contribution to TMC's rise and keeping the spokes of the government machinery running is in no way inferior to Mamata.
That is saying a lot. But that was then. After flitting in and out of the party since 2015, Roy these days is a greatly diminished figure. His influence on TMC's inner workings is vastly exaggerated. He has been systematically marginalized and removed from all important party positions and a rebellion of sorts was on the cards.
His position in the party went from precarious to untenable once Mamata took a series of steps that started with Roy being removed in August this year as the chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism and culture. His place went to TMC's Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien. The senior leader's position from the parliamentary consultative committee of the home ministry was next, where he was replaced by Manish Gupta. A few days ago, Roy was also stripped of his position as the party's national vice-president as Mamata Banerjee abolished the post after a revamp.
The former railway minister remained just a TMC working committee member, a position from which he quit on Monday.
Roy's alleged proximity with top BJP leaders was the proximate reason, though it is difficult to say whether his alienation in TMC was caused by his overtures to BJP, or he leaned towards the saffron unit once he became alienated from the party. The likely possibility is that after losing Mamata Banerjee's trust in 2015 — when he reportedly "cooperated" with the CBI during questioning on Saradha chit fund scam — Roy could never earn it back, even though he was re-inducted into the party with fanfare last year.
The BJP's wooing of Roy is not exactly a secret. In a recent news conference, Dilip Ghosh, the state BJP president, had hinted at it.
The sequence of events leading to Monday's resignation needs highlighting. On Sunday, Roy appeared at the inauguration of a Durga Puja linked to suspended TMC MP Kunal Ghosh, and sent some barbs Mamata's way on Durga idol immersion controversy. According to a report in Hindustan Times, Roy said: "No individual can claim credit for guarding the liberal character of Bengal and its accommodative attitude towards minorities."
It appears that Roy was on the verge of being disciplined — for TMC supremo brooks no dissent — and his Monday's news conference was clearly a move to preempt TMC's disciplinary action.
His repeated assertion at Monday's news conference, that he will announce full resignation after Puja because, "Bengalis are too caught up in festivities to worry about politics", is in a way an admission that his hands were forced. A man of impeccable political timing, Roy got the most crucial one wrong. It is plausible that he may join BJP, but whether that will have the kind of impact he and his suitors are hoping for is an open question.
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Updated Date: Sep 25, 2017 16:53:19 IST