‘If he doesn’t get a respectable position, Roy may go back to Trinamool Congress’.

 

New Delhi: The South Avenue area of New Delhi, which houses Members of Parliament, witnessed increased activities last week, with a group of BJP leaders from West Bengal congregating there for a meeting. The meeting was held at the house of a senior party leader and went on until 2 am.

The topic of discussion, apart from how to dislodge the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government, also discussed how to strike a good bargain for certain leaders, including Mukul Roy, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party after deserting the TMC.

Supporters of Roy, according to Delhi-based party functionaries, have set a deadline to get a “respectable” position for him within the BJP, failing which Roy is likely to look at “other options” including going back to the TMC.

These supporters feel that Roy has not been given a position matching his stature in the BJP despite joining the party in November 2017 and this delay has gone on for far “too long”.

The Roy camp, according to these sources, is pushing for the post of Union Minister for Roy in the much awaited Cabinet reshuffle that is likely to take place mid-August, for which he will have to enter the Rajya Sabha. More importantly he needs a “free hand” while selecting candidates for the upcoming May 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections. This “free hand”, according to sources in the Roy camp, is the first step towards Roy pushing for the chair of Chief Minister in case the BJP manages to come to power in Bengal post May 2021.

However, senior West Bengal BJP leaders, led by party president Dilip Ghosh, who have been with the BJP all through their careers, are averse to Roy being given the reins of the party in the state as they feel that making him the face of the party and giving him more power will dent BJP’s image considering the “taint” that he carries. “The Narada and Sarada scams are still fresh on the minds of the voters and workers; Roy was the right-hand man of Mamata Banerjee for decades, all this cannot vanish in a matter of a couple of years. The BJP has already given him a lot, he should learn to wait,” a close associate of Ghosh told The Sunday Guardian while commenting on Roy’s deadline.

Earlier this week, a few BJP leaders, who were formerly in the TMC, had an informal meeting with Roy where they decided that their demand for a “respectable” position for Roy could not be delayed further, as that would mean that he would not get a place in the Cabinet as the expected August reshuffle is likely to be the last reshuffle before the West Bengal Assembly elections.

Roy’s graph has fallen in the BJP following the tragic and untimely death of Arun Jaitley. The lawyer-politician shared good relations with Roy and played an instrumental role in bringing Roy into the BJP fold.

Supporters of Roy have communicated to the BJP leadership that if Roy switches sides, a “majority” of the BJP MPs and a “huge number” of ground leaders and workers in the state, who had moved to the BJP due to Roy, too, will desert the BJP and go back to the TMC. The BJP currently has 18 MPs in West Bengal out of whom four had come from the TMC and the Left and were brought to the BJP by Roy.

“Roy is tired of waiting and has given an ultimatum to the party. If his demands are not met, he will leave the party and we can assure you that if that happens, the BJP will not be able to win even 15 seats in the Assembly elections,” a supporter of Roy told The Sunday Guardian.

However, according to a senior BJP functionary, who sits at the party’s headquarters at Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg and “watches” West Bengal, Roy was asking for “too much” from the party despite not having much to offer to the party in return.

“None of the top BJP leaders will go back with him to the TMC even if he goes back, as everyone is witnessing the anti-incumbency against Mamata Banerjee. Roy does not have the kind of support that he is assuming. We know who the couple of MPs and MLAs who are standing with him,” said the party functionary, who handled a similar responsibility of a big state in the past.

According to him, BJP Bengal in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya, too, has communicated to Roy that he cannot help him much on his demands as the party leadership is not sure about Roy adding anything extra to BJP’s repertoire in West Bengal than what he already has brought to the party. “He had promised many things when he had joined the BJP, many of them in front of the media. However, he has been able to fulfil very few of these promises,” the functionary quoted above said when asked to comment on Roy’s ultimatum.

On Friday afternoon, Mukul Roy abruptly left Delhi for Kolkata, even as a crucial week-long BJP West Bengal unit meeting was taking place in the national capital, for which all the top leaders from the state including district presidents were in Delhi to discuss strategies for the May 2021 Assembly elections.

On Thursday and Friday, Roy’s official residence in New Delhi at 181, South Avenue was conspicuous by the absence of placards and banners depicting Narendra Modi, J.P. Nadda and Amit Shah, that were earlier placed at his house prominently. The next door neighbour of Roy is Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of Mamata Banerjee.