Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has a problem of plenty but is trying to turn it into a luxury and make the most of it.
Following the “rehabilitation” of her former lieutenant Mukul Roy in the party recently and his reinstatement as vice president, the West Bengal chief minister has not one but two point-persons in Delhi.
So, while national secretary and chief national spokesman Derek O’Brien represented his party at an all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week, it was left to Roy who was made vice-president days ago to lead a party delegation to the Election Commission the same day. Roy also met Home Minister Rajnath Singh the day after to clarify “wrong perceptions” about law and order in Bengal.
Roy had patched up with Mamata during the latter’s visit to the city last December.
Roy met Rajnath last Wednesday, armed with the same data from the National Crime Records Bureau about crime rates in West Bengal with which he had urged the EC the previous day to hold early assembly elections in Bengal to avoid the summer heat.
“I met him and showed him NCRB data over the years that prove that violence has actually come down since the Left era. I told him that that though you are a BJP leader, you are the home minister of the country so I would like to present the facts to you,” Roy said. Incidentally NCRB functions under Rajnath’s own ministry.
O’Brien, meanwhile, has had one of the most meteoric rises in the Trinamool organisation ever since the estrangement of Roy and Mamata, apparently over Roy’s deposition to the CBI in the Saradha chit fund case in February 2015. O’Brien replaced Roy as the leader of the party in the Rajya Sabha, and led a very combative party before his leader met PM Modi and called a truce. The first overtures of reconciliation with Roy, too, had come from O’Brien when they were seen eating soup in the Central Hall of Parliament. Before that, for months, Roy had been persona non grata for Trinamool MPs.
Now, while it is Roy’s lot to liaison one on one with political leaders, O’Brien, who had performed that role in bringing Mamata and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal together, is now essentially the public face of the party at the national level — although he will obviously play second fiddle to Mamata when she chooses to step out of the state. O’Brien visited Hyderabad University in the wake of Rohith Vemula’s suicide and has been interacting extensively with students in elite colleges across the country including a programme in SRCC Delhi.
Roy’s responsibility is tying the Delhi ends of the West Bengal electoral process. He had succeeded Mamata as Union minister and, until O’Brien’s elevation, was her voice in the capital. He would not like to play second fiddle to O’Brien in national politics.
Even as the two leaders get more and more busy with the upcoming state elections — Roy possibly a little more so — rivalry between them is something that Mamata, known to be an instinctive man manager, can ill-afford.
The division of responsibilities between the two Rajya Sabha MPs and how they work in tandem will be one of the salient features of the Trinamool Congress’s attempted national presence in the months leading up to and following the assembly elections.