The ghar wapsi, or homecoming, of Mukul Roy is part of the Trinamool’s strategy to strike while the iron is hot.
The objective – to demolish the BJP in Bengal, where it sill has 18 Lok Sabha MPs, ahead of the 2024 national election, which is just two-and-a-half years away.
To accomplish this objective, and chart out its future course, the Trinamool is eager to capitalise on the anti-BJP sentiment in the state at this moment.
The operation for the ‘return of the prodigals’ – that set of high-profile political leaders who were poached by the BJP since Mr Roy crossed over in 2017 – was top secret.
Both the party and those being wooed were tight-lipped – a difficult thing to achieve in politics.
It won’t just the senior Roy who returns to the Trinamool fold; his son, Subhranshu Roy – a former Trinamool MLA who joined the BJP, contested the election and lost – is also present at the Trinamool Bhavan in Kolkata and is likely to rejoin the party.
The Trinamool is also encouraging the return of others, including former minister Rajib Banerjee and former MLAs Prabir Ghoshal of Uttarpara and Sarala Murmu of Malda, despite all three losing their individual electoral races.
And in better news for the Trinamool, some sitting BJP MLAs are also likely to find their way back to the mothership. Sources say the party wants to break off as big a chunk of the BJP as it possibly can – perhaps even bigger than the piece the BJP broke before the election.
Mukul Roy, many believe, was the key to the operation. Mamata Banerjee signalled as much in the build-up to the election; at a public rally she said: “Mukul Roy is not a bad as Suvendu Adhikari”.
Mr Adhikari, of course, is the newest high-profile ex-Trinamool recruit to the BJP; an ex-Mamata Banerjee aide in whom the opposition invested heavily in hopes of a spectacular election win.
Unfortunately for the BJP, his personal win over Ms Banerjee from Nandigram was the only bright spot in an otherwise disastrous outing.
Last week Abhishek Banerjee – Ms Banerjee’s nephew and the new General Secretary of the Trinamool – visited the hospital where Mr Roy’s wife is being treated for COVID-19. Mr Roy and Mr Banerjee didn’t quite see eye-to-eye in the past, and his visit was a headline-maker.
Mr Banerjee also met Mr Roy’s son, Subhranshu, while at the hospital. After that meeting, Subhranshu Roy waxed eloquent about Abhishek Banerjee’s gesture.
Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh also visited the hospital – after Abhishek Banerjee’s visit and after reports top BJP leaders subsequently phoned Mukul Roy to enquire after his wife – but that, it seems, was too little too late.