Recognised as a shrewd election strategist, Mukul Roy’s tryst with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lasted only 42 months because of growing differences between him and other leaders, including state party chief Dilip Ghosh, and the relationship worsened after he was named as candidate for the assembly polls, said leaders aware of developments.
Roy was a former Union minister and Rajya Sabha member but had never won an election when he was named the BJP’s candidate from Krishnanagar Uttar.
“He was a TMC Rajya Sabha member and even served as minister in the Manmohan Singh government but for a person who never won a public election, an unfamiliar seat posed a risk. Yet, he made it although his son could not retain the Bijpur seat in North 24 Parganas district, Roy’s home turf. He felt some people in the party wanted to see him lose,” said a senior BJP state office-bearer.
Roy joined BJP on November 3, 2017 in Delhi where Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasgupta and general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya welcomed him. He was not given any significant post but worked hard in the districts and engineered numerous defections from the TMC. He became the BJP’s election strategist in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and helped the party post its best-ever tally of 18 seats. On September 26 last year, Roy was appointed BJP’s national vice-president but differences in the state unit became apparent when Ghosh and others skipped a programme to felicitate him.
Roy was not asked to head the party’s election committee for the assembly polls as legislator Suvendu Adhikari, who switched in December 2020, grew in importance.
“Rivalry between old BJP leaders and TMC turncoats were visible in the party after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. On the eve of the state polls, we found many former TMC leaders getting divided in camps and owing allegiance to leaders in Delhi. The effect was felt on the ground,” said a second state BJP leader.
The rift only widened after BJP slumped to a loss in the election, winning just 77 seats to TMC’s 213. “After he defeated Mamata Banerjee, Adhikari was made leader of the opposition and Roy was asked to nominate his name. This became a bone of contention,” said the leader quoted above.
BJP national secretary Anupam Hazra also hinted at factional differences. “Lobbying and projecting one or two leaders while ignoring and insulting capable leaders, has had its effect. Bengal BJP should stop this lobby politics immediately and utilize leaders in accordance to their merit,” Hazra wrote on social media on Friday.
Roy’s political life began in the Youth Congress, where he quickly grew close to then opposition leader Banerjee and was one of the founding members of the TMC in January 1998.
Banerjee wanted him to be the party’s face in Delhi and coordinate with national and regional parties. He was sent to the Rajya Sabha where he served from 2006 to 2017. In 2006, he was also appointed TMC’s national general secretary that made him the party’s second-in-command.
When Banerjee resigned as Union railways minister in 2011 to become Bengal’s chief minister, she picked Roy as her replacement in the Union cabinet for a few months. Before that, he was minister of state for shipping for about two years.
But he fell out with the party in 2015 and was removed from all posts amid reports of differences with leaders close to Abhishek Banerjee, Banerjee’s nephew. In 2017, he resigned with his name shrouded in corruption allegations.