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Why Mukul Roy May Not Be A Big Catch For The BJP

If Mukul can’t draw the masses then will only his organisational skills make him worthwhile for the party?

Updated
India
5 min read
Mukul Roy, once no 2 in the Trinamool Congress, joined the BJP on 6 November.
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An over-enthusiastic crowd of supporters with lotus-painted scarves around their necks had gathered to welcome Mukul Roy at Kolkata’s Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport on 6 November. The night before, a room was refurbished and kept ready for him at the BJP’s Kolkata office. The local media was buzzing with reports of how the only two other people who have personal cabins at the office are party president Dilip Ghosh and national secretary Rahul Sinha.

Mukul Roy is now a part of the West Bengal BJP’s top brass but in what capacity will he work? There were some answers at the joint press conference that Dilip and Mukul held. “At the Centre, Amit Shah is my captain, in the state it’s Dilip,” Mukul said. Ghosh, on his part, said that the party will strengthen its hold under Mukul.

BJP president Amit Shah welcomes former railways minister Mukul Roy into the party.
BJP president Amit Shah welcomes former railways minister Mukul Roy into the party.
(Photo: PTI)
But it is likely that more news could be in the offing. Roy promised that he will make a “surprise” announcement when he addresses his first rally under the BJP banner later this week. The message was clear, Mukul was a big catch but not big enough for all state BJP leaders such as Roopa Ganguly, Babul Supriyo etc to be there to receive him. He was going to play second fiddle to Dilip Ghosh. The decision had come from the party high command.

Can Mukul Taint The BJP?

Mukul Roy was one of the founding members of the Trinamool Congress.
His political engineering, many say, is second to none. Having single-handedly built the Trinamool’s grassroots level election machinery, his erstwhile proximity to Mamata needs no introduction.

Trinamool sources say that while he might be able to bring together a fragmented BJP to put up a stronger face in the rural areas, Mukul is not a mass leader. “People don’t vote for Mukul. He will not be able pull district level workers to the BJP, especially after Didi’s astounding win in the 2016 elections,” said a source on condition of anonymity.

Sources within the TMC also say that while many top leaders were hobnobbing with Mukul till before the elections, Mamata’s victory meant that he was soon sidelined and his clout within the Trinamool is nowhere close to what it used be. Hence Mukul’s propensity to poach leaders also seems extremely unlikely, say observers.

That leaves Narada and Sarada. The two scams that seem to have the Trinamool high command by the neck. While it is common knowledge in the political circles of Bengal that the primary reason why Mukul jumped ship is to absolve himself of the charges in both cases, the BJP, on its part, is paying the price for the supposed grace given to him.
It is not without reason that Amit Shah, who greeted Mukul after the press conference, refused to be the one sharing stage with him while introducing him to the party. The dirty job was left to Kailash Vijaivargiya and Ravi Shankar Prasad.
It is not without reason that Amit Shah, who greeted Mukul after the press conference, refused to be the one sharing stage with him while introducing him to the party. The dirty job was left to Kailash Vijaivargiya and Ravi Shankar Prasad.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ Bijendra Singh)

Social media has had a field day reminding the party how they had once chanted “Bhaag, Mukul, Bhaag” and how the BJP is now guilty of publicly associating with those who are “tainted” (for the lack of a better term). It is not without reason that Amit Shah, who greeted Mukul after the press conference refused to be the one sharing stage with him while introducing him to the party. The dirty job was left to Kailash Vijaivargiya and Ravi Shankar Prasad.

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How Big A Gain Is Mukul For The BJP?

Sources in the BJP say that Mukul was in talks with the top leadership in Delhi for a very long time. It started, of course, in 2015, when he was questioned by the CBI regarding Sarada. Mukul has since made repeated trips to Delhi and has been meeting BJP leaders including Rajnath Singh. But the BJP, especially the state leadership, was uneasy about his involvement in both the scams, since both Modi and Amit Shah had spoken extensively about putting the perpetrators of both ‘crimes’ behind bars.

Negotiations were on for months before Shah took the final call and this was chosen as the opportune time – before the panchayat polls which can be a big determiner in the 2021 elections. The BJP state machinery remained largely alienated from the entire process.

Partha Chatterjee, education minister and senior Trinamool leader, has called Mukul “Kanchraparar Kancha Chele” or the “Under-Done Boy Of Kanchrapara”, Kanchrapara being Mukul’s home turf. The attack on Mukul has been sustained by other ministers like Firhad Hakim also, so the Trinamool seems to be putting up an united front. But insiders say that the party is a little nervous about whether their ostracising of Roy has worked.

Mukul Roy with state BJP President Dilip Ghosh at the Kolkata BJP office on Monday.
Mukul Roy with state BJP President Dilip Ghosh at the Kolkata BJP office on Monday.
(Photo: Ishadrita Lahiri/The Quint)

If Mukul is unable to pull votes from the district-level TMC workers or any leaders from the top brass then what good is he to the BJP, especially with a tainted reputation? That’s a battle that Mukul will have to fight within the BJP in order to convince the different factions that he’s not a threat but a weapon to be used against Mamata. Political observers also say that Shah’s final approval of Mukul’s induction can be seen as a sign he’s trying to send to Mamata that he has his guns trained on the Trinamool.

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The biggest question in the entire Mukul-Trinamool-BJP equation, however, is the political allegiances of his son Subhrangshu who is a Trinamool MLA from Kanchrapara – also the location for Mukul’s first rally.

Will Mukul speak out against his son? What role will Subhrangshu play and what role will he have in the Trinamool now? These are questions that Mukul has evaded. But he promises that he has many “surprises” ahead. The drama is far from over.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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