New Delhi, Kolkata: Mukul Roy, long-time Trinamool Congress leader seen as the right-hand man of Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, quit the party and his Rajya Sabha seat today. Amid speculations that he was joining the BJP, Mr Roy later told the media that he would reveal his future plans only after Diwali.
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"With heavy heart and heavy pain, I am compelled to submit my resignation," the 63-year-old later told the media. At the press conference, where the rebel leader had promised to tell all, Mr Roy said all members in a party "should be comrades and not servants... But one-man parties do not work like that".
The Trinamool which had scoffed at his promises and predicted that his press conference will be a "damp squib" declared Bengal and the party has been "saved". "Mukul has done very 'kancha (raw) politics. He has succumbed to the pressure from BJP and the CBI," said senior party leader and state minister Partha Chatterjee.
But a section in the party feel that Mr Roy, a founder-member who knows all the skeletons in the Trinamool cupboard, would be a powerful enemy if he allies with the BJP. Over the last few weeks, Mr Roy has met senior BJP leaders like Union minister Arun Jaitley and Kailash Vijayvargiya.
"Mamata Banerjee had instructed me in 2004 to have a meeting with Sangh leaders. I met them in Kolkata. In 2003, Banerjee had herself met (late VHP leader) Ashok Singhal at her residence. So it is not new for me," he had told reporters.
On October 25, Mr Roy had pre-empted the Trinamool plans to suspend him. At a hastily called press conference, he announced that he was resigning from the party with a "heavy heart".
Trinamool has shrugged off the loss, dismissing him as a "political nobody" from the smalltown of Kanchrapara, whom Mamata Banerjee put at the head of India's rail ministry.
Over the recent weeks, the party's secretary general, Partha Chatterjee, held a series of press meets. The first was to announce a six-year suspension of the man who was the party's all-India secretary. In the last, he called Mr Roy a "mere Kanchrapara boy".
"Even his neighbours didn't know who he was. Mamata Banerjee not only made him an MP, but also India's Rail Minister. What else can you want?" he said. " He is just a gas balloon. If Mamata Banerjee punctures him, he will become nothing."
Mukul Roy's fallout with Mamata Banerjee began after he was questioned by CBI in January 2015 in the Saradha ponzi scam. Unlike other lawmakers of the party, who were arrested, he emerged smiling. Many in the party had begun to question what he had told CBI. The suspicion was that it was a lot, to save his own skin.
More recently, Mr Roy was questioned once by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Narada case - a sting operation in which 12 Trinamool leaders allegedly accepted cash from a journalist posing as a businessman. The agency, along with the Enforcement Directorate, have stepped up pace in the probe, summoning leaders, quizzing them and even asking for the wife of a leader -- under medical treatment in London -- to come for questioning.
Among the leaders who have been quizzed repeatedly lately are former transport minister Madan Mitra, lawmaker Aparupa Poddar, transport minister Suvendu Adhikari, serving Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee and legislator Iqbal Ahmed.
Party insiders claim Roy's bete noir is Mamata Banerjee's nephew and lawmaker Abhishek Banerjee, who has gradually replaced Roy's men in the second rung of party leadership with his own foot soldiers.