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Bengal: BJP-TMC Tug Of War Begins Over ‘Silent’ Mukul Roy

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Rapid developments are taking place around Mukul Roy, Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee’s former right-hand who is now a national vice president of the BJP.  Roy’s silence since the election results had triggered speculations over his political future.

Banerjee’s nephew, Abhishek, paid a visit to the hospital where Roy’s wife, Krishna, is undergoing treatment for Covid-19-related complications and spoke to Roy’s son, Subhrangshu on Wednesday.

On the same night, a few hours after Abhishek’s visit, the BJP’s state unit president Dilip Ghosh went to visit the hospital, following which prime minister Narendra Modi on Thursday morning spoke to Roy over the phone and inquired about his and his wife’s health.

Roy, too, has tested positive for Covid-19 but is recovering in home isolation.

Political observers are not treating these visits and phone calls as a mere show of courtesy at the hour of a health emergency in the family.

The visit of Abhishek Banerjee, the TMC’s present-day ‘number-2’ and youth wing chief, was itself considered a significant development because it came barely a couple of days after Roy’s son, Subhrangshu, criticised the BJP’s role in the post-result scenario in a Facebook post.

Subhranghshu, a two-time TMC MLA, went to the BJP in June 2019, about 19 months after his father switched camp. However, Roy junior lost this election contesting on a BJP ticket.

In his recent Facebook post, he wrote that instead of disturbing a government that had just returned to power, the party would do better to introspect. It was seen as his disapproval of the Centre’s recent moves triggered conflict with the third Mamata Banerjee government.

“Abhishek Banerjee’s visit to the hospital and exchanging words with Subhrangshu Roy triggered an alarm bell in the party’s top ranks,” said a senior leader of Bengal BJP who did not want to be identified, “Modi’s phone call shows how the top leadership still values him while a section of the state leadership had been cold to Roy.”

What seems to have triggered a kind of panic among the BJP leadership over Roy’s next moves is his silence since the results were declared. On the day he took oath as an MLA, Roy refused to speak to the media on the Bengal situation, arguing that there are times when one should value silence. After his remarks triggered speculations over his political future, Roy promptly stated on social media that he was very much with the BJP.

However, over the next three weeks, Roy maintained absolute silence, even as the Centre entered into a series of conflicts with the state government.

“He has been silent because he is unwell and he is even more worried about the health of his wife. Nevertheless, there is no denying that he is upset with the way the elections were handled, how he was not given enough space or utilized to his fullest capacity. Further, no leader enquired about his or his wife’s health over the past two weeks,” said a BJP leader who is a close aide of Roy.

Another BJP leader said that the party is aware that the TMC might be more than willing to get Roy back to weaken the BJP’s state organisations further.

“Mamata Banerjee had made it clear during the election campaign that she did not hold as much grudge against Roy as against other turncoats like Suvendu Adhikari,” said a BJP Lok Sabha MP.

A senior TMC leader also said that the party “had no reservation against” getting Roy back. “If Roy is willing, we have no objection. Getting him back would help us weaken the BJP. But we are not going to exhibiting any kind of overenthusiasm,” said a TMC Rajya Sabha MP who did not want to be identified.

Incidentally, both the BJP Lok Sabha MP and the TMC Rajya Sabha MP highlighted that Roy had kept his options open by “never highlighting communal issues” during his entire career with the BJP, even amidst a high-decibel campaign launched by the BJP targeting the TMC government on communal lines.

“He kept speaking on issues of development, rights, and democratic space. He didn’t burn the bridge like Suvendu Adhikari, who indulged in extensive communal propaganda,” a TMC minister told Outlook.

Adhikari, who too was a confidante of Mamata Banerjee, joined the BJP in December last year and is now the leader of the opposition.


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