In a jolt to the Bharatiya Janata Party, its national vice president Mukul Roy, who had defected from All India Trinamool Congress amid much political drama, rejoined his parent political organisation.
Flanking TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee at a press conference in Kolkata, Roy said he will talk about the reasons behind his return later. He, however, insisted that he will never join back the BJP again. Roy joined the party along with his son Shubhranshu on Friday.
"I feel happy that I am back to where I belong. Bengal will be back to its former glory, and I accept Mamata Banerjee as my supreme leader," Roy said.
He, however, maintained a silence on his reasons behind quitting the BJP. "I will give you a detailed response for the reasons why I have returned, but I will say this that I will never return to BJP and I will never be with them," he said.
Roy added that "given the condition of the BJP in Bengal", no one would stay in the saffron party for long.
From Mir Jafars to Old is Gold, Mamata's changing stance on turncoats
Meanwhile, the West Bengal chief minister, who had branded turncoat TMC members as Mir Jafars during a vicious election campaign, said: "I think Mukul is himself relieved to be back. He was disturbed in the BJP, and tormented in that party."
Mamata also indicated that Roy's previous influence will be restored. "Mukul will play the same rope he played before... He is part of our family," she said.
Roy, one of the founding members of the TMC, was its general secretary when he quit, a post that has now gone to the chief minister's nephew Abhishek Banerjee.
This comes at a time when several turncoat politicians, who switched from the TMC to the BJP ahead of Assembly polls, have expressed regret over their decision to quit the Mamata-led party.
On the subject, Mamata said, "Yes, more will come as you know, old is always gold."
She, however, insisted that only those that maintained sobriety and decency when away from the party will be given a second chance.
More TMC turncoats considering ghar vapasi?
Well, some have been vocal. Some have not.
Several former TMC MLAs including Dipendu Biswas and Sonali Guha have in recent past sent letters regretting their decision to join the BJP, and sought to return back to the party's fold.
Guha, who at one time was considered close to Banerjee, made an impassioned plea on camera seeking the chief minister's forgiveness. "The way fish can not stay out of the water, I will not be able to live without you, Didi," Guha, a four-time legislator from Satgachia in South 24 Parganas, has written in a letter to Banerjee.
Apart from Roy, Shamik Bhattacharya and Rajib Banerjee are other big names who are expected to join the TMC after BJP lost the fiercely contested 2021 West Bengal Assembly election. BJP's Bengal unit held a high-powered organisational meeting on Tuesday where party leaders were required to be physically present and all three gave it a miss.
The BJP had earlier tried to dismiss speculation around these leaders' absence from the party meeting. Joy Prakash Majumdar, Vice-President, West Bengal BJP, said: "BJP National Vice President Mukul Roy could not attend the meeting as his wife is unwell and hospitalised. On the day the meeting was scheduled, Bengal BJP chief spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya's father died of COVID-19 and so he could not attend the meeting. Rajib could not attend due to personal reasons," he said.
However, after Roy making a comeback, speculations are rife that other turncoats may also get a second chance even though Mamata added an important rider to the possible 'ghar vapasi'.
"Those who betrayed the party before the elections and indulged in a bitter campaign, we are not considering them... Only those who maintained sobriety will be considered," she said.
The West Bengal BJP Vice-President said those leaders, who want to go back to Trinamool Congress, are greedy for power. "It is their primary right. Those who want to go to their old party can go back. They can decide whether they want to stay with this party and work for the people or go to the party from where they came. They want to go back to Trinamool Congress because they are greedy for power."
Before rising to prominence in the BJP, Roy was a founder-member of the TMC which he quit in 2017. Rajib left the TMC in January this year and contested the West Bengal assembly polls on a BJP ticket.
Several leaders including Suvendu Adhikari, a former close aid of Mamata, also joined the BJP ahead of Assembly polls. BJP lost the polls but emerged as the second-largest party with 77 seats in the 294-member state assembly. Trinamool Congress registered a landslide victory winning 213 seats.
Why Mukul Roy left BJP?
Roy chose to remain silent on his reasons to quit the BJP, which he joined in 2017 decrying Mamata's iron-fist rule on the party and her proclivity to promote her own nephew over other party leaders.
Now that he has rejoined the TMC when the same nephew enjoys more power than before as the party's general secretary, the irony seems to be lost on him. However, where Mukul chose to remain mum, political observers have been speculating about his shift for months.
Speaking to The Wire, political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty said Roy's politics is all about power. With no significant power or position in the BJP, he has become restless. Chakraborty also believes that the BJP state leadership is not happy with Roy.
"For the BJP, he has become a liability. Because of Mukul Roy, the party's image was tarnished and this a growing concern within the BJP leadership," he said.
Another political observer Snighdehendu Bhattacharya posits that the inconvenience that comes with electoral defeat was a major factor in changing the hearts and minds of former Mamata loyalists.
He told Deccan Herald, "The TMC turncoats joined the BJP hoping that it would come to power in West Bengal. But since it did not happen they are thinking that it would be easier for them to make a political career in TMC than in the BJP," Bhattacharya said.
With inputs from agencies