Speculation is rife on beleaguered Mukul Roy's, a close aide of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who is under the CBI scanner in the Saradha scam, next move.
Does Mukul Roy, general secretary of the Trinamool Congress, want to join the Bharatiya Janata Party?
These are volatile times in Indian politics and the unthinkable can happen. According to a source in the TMC, Mukul Roy, once Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s most trusted man, is now bent upon breaking his ties with her party. Roy is under the Central Bureau of Investigation scanner for his alleged involvement in the Saradha chit fund scam and has been quizzed extensively for his close association with Sudipta Sen, the arrested chairman of Saradha group.
Rediff.com had earlier reported that a few of the arrested accused have named Mukul Roy on several occasions during the investigations. A report in the Ananda Bazaar Patrika newspaper had stated that Sudipta Sen’s plan to flee Kolkata was orchestrated by none other than Roy.
The Bengali press had reported that Roy was in touch with Sen and his colleague Debjani Mukherjee as they moved from one place to another while on the run from the law.
The TMC general secretary allegedly made 86 calls to Sen during his 14-day run before the latter was held from Sonmarg in Kashmir in April 2013, the ABP report added.
In her statements to the CBI, (Debjani) Mukherjee revealed that (Sudipta) Sen had spoken with Roy at Kolkata’s Nizam Palace and also in New Delhi while he was on the run.
The CBI will file a supplementary charge-sheet in the Saradha scam very soon in the Alipore court in Kolkata. The first charge-sheet it filed has tainted the TMC because the accused are closely connected to the party.
TMC minister Madan Mitra, Rajya Sabha MPs Sirinjoy Bose and Kunal Ghosh are already in the CBI's net. While Mitra is in judicial custody, Bose has been released on bail.
This week the TMC won bypolls in the state with impressive margins but at same time the vote share of the BJP has increased dramatically. It shows that the BJP has a chance to replace the Communist Party of India-Marxist to become the main challenger to the TMC in the next assembly elections. This can become easier on the ground if Mukul Roy shifts his loyalty.
However, from the BJP's point of view, it is not easy to "accept" Roy, who is not just a political bully but is also facing a serious credibility crisis over the Saradha scam.
In fact, Roy told the ABP Ananda television channel, 'Our party's vote share has remained the same. The CPI-M has lost its relevance. In 2011, the BJP had 3-3.5 per cent votes and in 2014 it rose to 15-17 per cent. Now it is 28-29 per cent. This indicates the future (bhobishyot er ingitbahi).'
After he was quizzed by the CBI in the Saradha scam Banerjee had cut Roy to size and promoted Dinesh Trivedi and others in the party. Roy, once the indispensable hero of the TMC, is an organisational man and Banerjee trusted him deeply. He wielded much more power than his official position would indicate.
For the BJP, Mukul Roy serves a twin purpose. If he sides with the the BJP it will deliver a hard blow to the TMC. Two, the BJP needs local leaders within the party to reach out to Bengalis. BJP President Amit Shah has been spending a lot of time in West Bengal to make the party's presence felt. After Uttar Pradesh, the party thinks Bengal is one of the most important states where the party infrastructure should be built from scratch and without wasting any time.
But for the BJP a decision is not going to be easy. Another TMC leader, Dinesh Trivedi, who enjoys a clean reputation, is also flirting with the idea of parting ways with the party due to the strained relations with its chief. After he resigned as railway minister he acquired a pan-India stature. However, talk of his joining the BJP is not raising the sharp questions that it does with Roy.
Mukul Roy’s case is complicated because if the BJP accepts him it will be dubbed as an opportunistic alliance. Roy wants to save himself from the CBI and critics would say that he is going to the BJP for protection. Also, there will be allegations that the BJP has misused the CBI like the Congress did to weaken its political rivals.
So far, neither Roy nor the BJP has said anything on record but Roy’s attempt to belittle the TMC’s electoral victory exposes his intentions.