The BJP enjoys the pole position in politics. It is comfortable organising defections but is certainly not used to being dumped. But Bengalis it seems will continue to inflict one cut after the other on the national party. After the big snub to the BJP in the recent West Bengal assembly elections, the party has now been ditched by its biggest and earliest “acquisition” from the TMC in Bengal: Mukul Roy, former railway minister, once right hand of TMC leader Mamata Banerjee.
Roy had joined the BJP in November, 2017. He was also one of the candidates of the party that actually won his seat in the assembly and is currently the elected MLA from Krishnanagar Uttar seat, from which he will presumably resign. A bit different from the non-performing asset of the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh, Jitin Prasada, defeated in multiple elections, that the BJP just acquired to much media fanfare, on the day preceding Mukul Roy’s exit.
You win some you lose some, one could say. But the BJP under Narendra Modi is unaccustomed to loss, be it in elections or in exiting members. For the seventh year in a row, incidentally, in 2019-20, the BJP got the largest chunk of corporate and individual donations according to data it submitted to the Election Commission. It got Rs 750 crore, five times more than the Congress’ Rs 139 crore. The TMC, meanwhile, that’s been striking all these blows at the BJP got just Rs 8 crore.
The BJP therefore has had all the resources in the world to make “acquisitions” across the country, toppling regimes, winning majorities with defectors, bypassing the anti defection laws by ensuring re-election and therefore a smooth journey for party hoppers. It had gone full throttle in Bengal. Mukul Roy was the first big gun that the party would acquire and it was while he was with them that they posted such a good performance from Bengal in the Lok Sabha polls of 2019.
He was subsequently part of the entire strategy of acquiring TMC members and leaders in the run up to the recent assembly polls. He once famously told a TV channel that in the Lok Sabha polls, the TMC did badly in 143 assembly segments and all the people are in touch with us. The “us” was then the BJP.
This one time crown jewel of the BJP is not flawless. He felt disempowered in the TMC, of which he was a founding member (party created in January 1998) after his name appeared in two big scandals that would rock the state. The Saradha scam was a ponzi scheme or chit fund that collapsed bankrupting small investors in the state. Mukul Roy is one of the state politicians who has been grilled by the CBI in this regard.
The Narada sting operation that involved trapping Bengal politicians taking bribes on camera would also come to haunt Mukul Roy. Although he did not directly take cash on camera, the undercover journalist who did the sting said the largest amount was paid to Roy through another individual. Suvendu Adhikari, who currently is leader of the opposition in Bengal (he defeated Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram) and the more recent turn-coat to join BJP from TMC, is also named in the Narada case. There has been speculation that Suvendu Adhikari’s elevation to LoP is the last straw that had Mukul Roy exiting the BJP and running back to Didi.
Recently, investigative agencies arrested several TMC members named in the Narada sting but left out the TMC imports into the BJP. One wonders if Mukul Roy will again be under the scanner now that he has ditched the BJP. He is taking a risk on that front as he is yet to get a clean chit in both cases.
But these are small details in the larger messaging that the Mukul Roy exit from the BJP sends out. First, it only adds to the triumphant picture and evolving image of Mamata Banerjee as the fighter who can take on the mighty BJP. At a time when the national party’s affairs seem to be in disarray, it’s another dampener from Bengal. It’s also a time when some conversations have begun about putting up a united opposition against the BJP in 2024.
This round therefore goes to the TMC. The BJP has been left wondering which members of its Bengal unit, some elected MLAs now, could be plotting to jump ship next.
(Saba Naqvi is a Consulting Editor with India Ahead News. The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author.)