Mukul Roy, till recently the formidable all-India general secretary of the Trinamool Congress, is fighting a war of attrition with party supremo Mamata Banerjee who has been on Mission Mukul to make him a non-entity in the party. For his cool temperament and ability to make shrewd and subtle moves to turn the tables on his adversaries Roy is known as the Anil Biswas (former strategist and ace organiser of the Bengal CPI-M) of the Trinamool Congress. In a freewheeling interview to UDAY BASU and SOMA MOOKHERJEE he talks about how he is weathering the worst storm in his political career and gives hints about his plans to chart a new course for himself and his camp followers. Here are excerpts.
It was your efforts and toil that made the Trinamool Congress what it is now — a political organisation that demolished the CPI-M juggernaut. You and Mamata Banerjee together built the party brick by brick since it was floated in 1998. Banerjee trusted no other leader in the party more than you which is why she even went to the length of making you both shipping and railway ministers at the same time when there were so many capable MPs in the party. What went wrong that turned you into her worst enemy ?
I really don’t know. I am and have always been a loyal worker of the party trying to discharge whatever responsibilities my leader gives me.
That&’s too diplomatic an answer. You conceal more than you reveal. Let&’s prompt you a bit. There was no rift between you two till you distanced yourself from the deal inked between the tainted Saradha group and the railways. You told the media you hadn’t been the railway minister when the deal was struck. By saying so you gave tell-tale hints that your party chief and the then railway minister Mamata Banerjee might be privy to the scheme hatched by the Saradha group to dupe depositors by using its association with the railways as a collateral security. From that moment you became a bête noir of Banerjee, isn’t it ?
Look, you are free to interpret political developments the way you want to. I can only state facts. I had no intention to hurt or put anyone into trouble. The media asked me a straightforward question after they laid their hands on a copy of the agreement signed by Saradha Tour and Travels and the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation for arranging tours to pilgrimage spots. Since I had a stint as railway minister, the media asked me whether the deal was inked during my tenure. I only stated the fact that I wasn’t the railway minister then. No more, no less.
Didn’t you realise that by washing your hands of the deal, you actually tended to implicate your leader who was the railway minister when the controversial deal was clinched ?
It&’s out of the question. I had no idea about the deal and I never mentioned anybody&’s name. I only pleaded my ignorance of the matter and clarified that it wasn’t done during my tenure. That&’s all.
Your party chief and her government doggedly tried to block CBI investigation into the Saradha scam for which crores of rupees from the public exchequer had been spent to fight a legal battle to prevent the CBI from taking up the investigation. Also, the Trinamool top leadership adopted the official line of branding the CBI probe as a political vendetta by the Narendra Modi-government and held demonstrations outside the CBI office at Salt Lake opposing the probe. Suddenly, you overturned that position and declared you would subject yourself to CBI interrogation in connection with the scam since you were allegedly involved in the scam. Initially, you even shuttled between Kolkata and Delhi apparently to dodge the CBI interrogation and it&’s believed you struck a deal with the BJP top leadership before announcing your willingness to appear before the agency. What&’s the truth ?
If you remember correctly my first reaction to the CBI summons was that I would be at the CBI office within a few days after my work in Delhi was over. However, I couldn’t make it on the appointed day as I had to make several trips to Delhi from Kolkata for political work. It&’s all media conjecture that I had a deal with the BJP. In fact, I did meet the Prime Minister, the Union finance minister and some other top BJP leaders because being the all-India general secretary of the party in power in Bengal I had to meet leaders of other parties as well, including the Congress and the Left. My party has till date not issued any directive to us not to cooperate with any investigating agency of the country, be it the CBI or the CID. This is why another party MP Tapas Pal rightly stated a few days back that he would meet CBI officials whenever he is called in connection with the Rose Valley chit fund scam in which his name has been dragged. Would the media conclude Pal has struck a deal with the BJP at the Centre?
When are you going to launch your party ? There&’s a buzz in this regard, you know…
Again, this is yet another media speculation. I am a Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP and I have no other political identity. This much I’ll certainly tell you I am a born organiser and I believe in team spirit which I learnt from cricket. I was a good batsman and I have learnt a batsman can get runs when he stays at the wicket, takes the nasty balls on his body, remains indifferent to sledging and chooses the right ball for the winning stroke.
Your party is collecting your media statements to ascertain whether you have opposed the party positions on crucial issues. Do you fear disciplinary action against you in the offing?
I have never indulged in anti-party activities. I believe in plain speaking and I speak the truth. As for disciplinary action you talk about, I will act whenever I am required to and in the appropriate manner.