Saturday, January 31, 2015

A new Mukul ready to blossom or will it be nipped in the bud

Though the tremors within the Trinamool are nowhere close to the implosion that seems to be brewing in Congress,  the under-currents are palpable. In this context, the optics surrounding Mukul Roy’s deposition before the CBI yesterday is very significant.

A keen observer of West Bengal politics told me in Delhi the other day – if CBI does not detain Mukul after the interrogation ( as they did in the case of Madan Mitra and others before this) it will be a greater cause of worry for the party than if he were to be arrested.  Exactly something like that seems to have happened.

It is a matter of speculation – why Mukul spent so much time in Delhi since summons were issued to him by the CBI – now almost 3 weeks back.  It’s also noteworthy – CBI themselves didn’t press for the deadline of  January 21st it had originally set and allowed him to take his own sweet time to appear before them.  If CBI was concerned about his tampering with evidence or influencing  potential witnesses – they should not have allowed that extra time (and, also allow him to leave after the interrogations  yesterday). Mukul  himself  hasn’t denied rumours about him meeting the  BJP brass in Delhi and some BJP leaders have also acknowledged that approaches for meetings at the top level were indeed made.

But, changing sides or jumping the ship cannot be the game-plan of a master strategist and “Mr Cool” like Mukul  Roy. For him a more potent weapon would be a veiled threat for leading a revolt in the party. And, that’s exactly the card he seems to be playing. For, BJP too a split within Trinamool (and possible subsequent alliance with the splinter faction) might work far better than direct defections. In this context – one must also take note of BJP first announcing the impending cross-over of a large TMC contingent at Amit Shah’s January 20th rally in Burdawan and subsequently calling it off “for the time being”. It’s not difficult to guess – in case of a division – which way this lot is going to go.

Before and after yesterday’s CBI deposition Mukul’s messages were very clear and sharply defined. First, he was willing to cooperate with the investigation as he wants the “truth” to come out (contrary to the combative stand taken by the party). He himself has not done anything “anaitik” (improper or unethical – as distinct from “abaidha”or illegal).  The selective ‘leaks’ from CBI about what he has disclosed are also very significant.  In short, they can be interpreted as a “sneak preview” of  things that might  come later.  (“Kahaan Abhi Baaki Hain”..wait for the next episode). 

After he came out of the CBI Office (it seems he had indicated to his supporters while going in that he will not be kept beyond 4 PM and that’s exactly when he emerged) his supporters cheered him by name “Mukul Roy Zindabad” (not mentioning either Trinamool or the party supremo) and it seems they weren’t even carrying party flags.  Finally, came Mukul’s own statement – “had it not been for this day, I wouldn’t have realised how much the people of West Bengal love me”.  No ambiguity in what he wanted to say...”make no mistakes I have my own support base”.

Mukul Roy is regarded one of the shrewdest political brains and party organiser in Bengal of recent times – second only to, perhaps, the legendary CPIM State Politburo Secretary – the late Anil Biswas, to whom the Left owe much of their 30 years of reign.  While Trinamool’s rise have no doubt been due to Mamata’s crusading zeal and charisma – Mukul’s role in building the organisation from the grassroots is known to all. He has his key men placed in every district and ward, block and panchayat. He also controlled the party’s finances. It may not be an exaggeration to say he was to Mamata Banerjee what Amit Shah is to Modi.

Many question his allegedly dubious antecedents. But, the saying “There is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future”  - holds true for Politicians as well.  Especially, if there is the Hooghly close by to have a holy dip and wash away your sins.

Is a new “Mukul” ready to blossom in West Bengal this spring or will it be nipped in the bud as it were – the coming weeks will tell.

Article first published in click here to read