- Mukul Roy is extremely restive and sources say he feels he’s been had.
- Sources also say he has opened a back channel with Mamata Banerjee.
Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s famed electoral juggernaut is now headed to Bengal where they are up against Mamata Banerjee, the ‘Jagat Didi’ (universal sister). And the big news from West Bengal is the BJP is a house divided.
Banerjee is leaving nothing to chance and has got on board ideology agnostic, election strategist, Prashant Kishor, who earlier managed the campaigns of Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar and the Congress’s Amrinder Singh.
Meanwhile, as Banerjee seeks to retrieve her election winner status, Shah has a Mukul Roy sized problem on his hands. The first move in the Shah election play book is to ensure important defections, where he is facing a stony electoral ground. Shah did this in Assam, getting Himanta Biswa Sarma to defect to the BJP, and Roy was his identical move in West Bengal.
Roy, initially gung ho and enthusiastic, worked hard for Shah and resulted in the BJP winning 18 Lok Sabha seats out of the state’s 42 seats in the 2019 general elections. The TMC won 22 compared to 34 it had won in 2014.
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This was hailed as a historic paradigm shift in Bengal’s politics. Trouble was that all credit was given to Shah and none to Roy who had slogged on the ground as his consigliere.
The treatment was similar to what was meted out to Sarma, who left the Congress because he wanted to be chief minister of Assam, and yet even in the BJP government, holds only his old job. At least Sarma has a job. Roy was promised many goodies, including a Rajya Sabha seat and a ministry in the Modi government.
All the promises remained just that - promises. Power and pelf are the only political elixir and Roy has nothing to show to his supporters post his switch. On an aside, Jyotiraditya Scindia, who has also left the Congress for the BJP, should consider Roy and Sarma’s feats a teachable moment. Scindia has got his upper house seat, but the rest seems an uphill task.
Roy is extremely restive and sources say he feels he’s been had. Sources also say he has opened a back channel with Banerjee.
Meanwhile, Dilip Ghosh who Roy had fought against for years during his TMC days, was reappointed BJP state president this January. Ghosh and Shah have given many posts to erstwhile TMC leaders, irking the old timers in the cadre-based BJP.
Roy has even conveyed his anger to Shah about the “lack” of utilisation of his skills and how Ghosh is queering the pitch for him in Bengal. Roy’s acceptability among the BJP rank and file continues to be dismal.
Currently, the BJP in Bengal is a house divided. And Shah has added two new ingredients to the electoral mix. Babul Supriya, former singer and Modi minister, who owes his political career to being spotted by yoga guru Ramdev in a flight, is now trying to become a Bengal mover and shaker. Former Indian cricket captain and current BCCI chief Saurav Ganguly is also being assiduously wooed by Shah. So far Ganguly has aced the diplomatic tight rope. Not committing, but not quite saying no to Shah.
Shah has huge political capital vested in West Bengal and his opponent Banerjee is in the political fight of her life.
What Bengal decides in 2021 will quite possibly lay a roadmap for national politics.