Mukul Roy switch: Trinamul eyes BJP foot soldiers
The return of BJP’s national vice-president Mukul Roy to Trinamul on Friday seems to have opened a window of opportunity for thousands of turncoats at the grassroots to align themselves with the state’s ruling party.
Trinamul insiders expect this would hurt the organisational base that the Bengal BJP had developed banking on its success in the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.
Roy’s return sent a message for turncoats that Bengal’s political future did not lie with the BJP, a senior Trinamul leader said.
A jolt to the BJP’s organisational strength in the districts will hit the saffron camp’s prospects in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, expects Trinamul.
“A lot of people, including local leaders like gram panchayat members, booth committee presidents or councillors, had switched over to the BJP before the polls. Their move was spurred by senior Trinamul leaders such as Rajib Banerjee, Sonali Guha and others joining the rival camp. After Mukulda has returned, those people are trying to come back,” said the senior Trinamul leader in Burdwan.
Senior Trinamul leaders said Roy's return would serve the party in two ways — weaken the BJP’s grassroots base in rural and urban pockets of districts, and gain some BJP MLAs in the coming days.
Though the BJP lost the Assembly polls, Trinamul leaders are aware that 2.28 crore voters had backed the saffron camp. Therefore, Bengal’s ruling party feels breaking the grassroots organisation of the BJP will end up in voters moving away from Narendra Modi’s party by Lok Sabha polls in 2024.
“We should not forget the BJP’s vote share and the fact that the party has 18 MPs from Bengal. The main ploy is to weaken the BJP and take away their foot soldiers. Those who had joined the BJP have realised the mistake and are publicly regretting their decision. The BJP is claiming that they are doing it under our pressure, but the reality is different,” said a senior Trinamul leader in Birbhum.
Trinamul leaders in Birbhum, however, said workers who had switched sides before the polls could only be taken back if local leaders were fine with it, so as to prevent bad blood. “We have no problem if those who worked for the BJP want to join us. But it should be cleared by our local leaders,” said Anubrata Mondal, Trinamul’s Birbhum president.
Many Trinamul leaders, in fact, are opposed to the idea of taking back turncoats.
A leader of the ruling party said that attempts to return by Trinamul turncoats such as Rajib Banerjee and Sonali Guha had to be cleared by party supremo Mamata Banerjee, and she had clarified that “gaddars” (traitors) would not be taken back.
Former Trinamul minister Banerjee, who unsuccessfully contested on a BJP ticket from Domjur this time, met Trinamul leader Kunal Ghosh on Saturday evening. Many in Trinamul did not appear pleased.
Though both Ghosh and Banerjee called the visit “mere courtesy”, Trinamul MP Kalyan Banerjee told a TV channel that the poll result had proved the former minister had “no value” but it was up to Mamata to take a call on his return. Speaking to journalists on Saturday, MP and Kalyan’s party colleague Prasun Banerjee appealed to Mamata not to take back “leaders from Howrah” who had left the party ahead of the polls.
Trinamul insiders said the party was working to weaken the BJP organisationally and Mukul Roy’s meeting with Abhishek Banerjee on Saturday was held with that aim in mind. Trinamul sources said Roy had started tapping BJP MLAs to ask them to switch over to the Trinamul.
Political scientists also spoke about the possibility of several BJP MLAs joining the Trinamul in the aftermath of Roy’s homecoming.
“The BJP has only 74 MLAs now as two MPs have resigned and Mukul Roy has joined the Trinamul. If the numbers come down below 30, the BJP will lose the status of Opposition and Suvendu Adhikari will lose the chair of leader of Oppositions. I will not be surprised if such a thing happens. The BJP is now in a situation where it would be hard for them to find candidates to contest any local body polls,” said political scientist Biswanath Chakraborty.