Kolkata: In a blow to the prestige of the saffron brigade, Bharatiya Janata Party’s national Vice-President Mukul Roy, along with son Subranshu, re-joined the Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Friday, with Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and other leaders of the state's ruling party welcoming him back to the fold.
Roy, who was closeted with Banerjee in Trinamool Bhavan before his formal re-induction in the party he helped set up, said he was "happy to see all known faces again".
Addressing a press meet after the re-joining ceremony, Banerjee said Roy was threatened and tortured in the BJP, and that, in turn, affected his health.
"Mukul's return proves that the BJP does not let anyone live in peace and put's undue pressure on everyone," the chief minister said. Roy was seated on Banerjees left hand, with Abhishek seated after him, while Partha Chatterjee, another top TMC leader sat on her right, indicative according to TMC sources, of the party’s future pecking order.
Speculation had been rife for some time on a possible home-coming by Mukul Roy who had crossed over to BJP in 2017 after being charged in the Narada tape sting, ever since Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek visited his wife at a city hospital earlier this month.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promptly after Abhishek’s visit, rung up to enquire about Roy’s wife’s health, seen by political observers as an attempt to retain him within the BJP-fold.
Interestingly, at Friday’s re-joining ceremony, both Banerjee and Roy claimed that they never had any differences.
The chief minister said we will consider the case of those who had left TMC with Mukul Roy for BJP and want to come back, a signal that this may be the start of more defections from BJP’s Bengal unit.
However, Banerjee clarified that TMC politicians and workers who left to join the BJP just ahead of the April-May Assembly elections will not be taken back.
Roy, once the second-in-command of the TMC, was removed from the post of the party's national general secretary in February, 2015, sometime after the Narada sting was carried out by investigative journalists where many politicians were allegedly caught accepting wads of cash from a fictitious company. He joined the BJP in November 2017.
The move to bring him back possibly started when Banerjee at an election rally in late March had termed his conduct as not so bad.
This was in contrast to the chief minister’s other election speeches, where she had branded turncoat TMC members such as Suvendu Adhikari as `Mir Jafars, after the infamous Bengal general who betrayed Bengal's Nawab Siraj ud Daullah in the battle of Plassey against Lord Robert Clive’s army.
TMC will selectively take back people who crossed over, said sources. The aim will be to organisationally weaken BJP but at the same time it will not want too many turncoats back as this would be seen as rewarding dissidence, said Rajat Roy, well-known political analyst and member of the Calcutta Research Group. Mukul Roy is a special case as he is known to be an organisational brain.
Several former TMC MLAs including Dipendu Biswas and Sonali Guha have in recent past sent letters regretting their decision to join the BJP and sought to return back to the party’s fold. Guha, who at one time was considered close to Banerjee, made an impassioned plea on camera seeking the chief minister’s forgiveness.
Even before the formal entry of Mukul Roy, BJP’s national Vice President into Trinamool Congress, BJP leaders reacted angrily to the desertion.
BJP leader Dilip Ghosh reacting to news of Mukul Roy’s re-entry into Trinamool Congress, said he was not sure the party would lose anything from the move given that he was unsure whether we gained anything from Roy’s entry three-and-half years back.