New Delhi: Mukul Roy, who was long the second most powerful leader of the Trinamool Congress, on Thursday joined the BJP, claiming that people of West Bengal wanted an alternative to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and will vote the saffron party to power in the next polls.
The former railway minister, known for his organisational skills, joined the BJP in the presence of its chief Amit Shah.
Mukul Roy told reporters later that the BJP was not a communal but secular party.
Mukul Roy (63) recalled how the TMC forged an alliance with the BJP soon after Banerjee founded it and became a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. He said the regional party could not have grown without the BJP’s support.
Rejecting Banerjee’s charge against the BJP, he said, “It is not a communal party. It is a secular party. People in Bengal are not happy and are looking for an alternative. The BJP will soon clinch power in the State.”
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told a press conference after Mukul Roy joined the party that he was a founder leader of the TMC leader who played a key role in its expansion and march to power in the State.
Mukul Roy also effectively fought excesses and atrocities of the previous CPI(M) governments, Prasad said, insisting that Roy expressed his desire to join the BJP unconditionally and the party welcomes him wholeheartedly.
Mukul Roy later told journalists that “restoring democracy” in West Bengal will be his priority.
“I will work for restoration of democracy in Bengal, that will be my first task. I am a national level politician, I will try to see that people in Bengal can at least vote according to their choice. If people can cast their votes in panchayat polls, the BJP will wrest power from the TMC in least in 5 zila parishads,” he said.
“I am an organisational man. People of Bengal have turned against the TMC government. I am sure that in the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 and Assembly elections in 2021 the BJP will win Bengal,” Mukul Roy said,
The party is likely to task him with an important responsibility to drive its growth in the eastern State, where it has been traditionally weak. However, it is not clear yet what role he will have in the organisation.
“His role will be decided,” BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who is the party’s in-charge for the State, said.
The BJP will expand further in the State with Mukul Roy’s induction, Prasad said.
Asked about corruption allegations against him, Mukul Roy said the law will take its own course. It will be his “proud privilege” to work under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah, he said.
Mukul Roy had quit the Rajya Sabha and the TMC last month. He was suspended by the party earlier as his differences with Banerjee grew and he was seen veering towards the BJP.