Kolkata: Pictures of him with BJP stalwarts such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani adorn the walls of his office in Kolkata; the bookshelves include his own work on Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of Jana Sangh.
For Tathagata Roy, even his party credentials are impressive — he headed the West Bengal unit of the BJP for four years between 2002 and 2006, and was a national executive member for 13 years (2002-2015).
Roy also served as the governor of Tripura (2015-2018) and of Meghalaya (2018-2020).
But over the past year, ever since his governorship term ended in April 2020, Roy says he has been struggling to obtain “active membership” of the BJP. He told ThePrint that he had given up the membership when he became Tripura governor in 2015.
An active membership is a step above the BJP’s ordinary membership, which just involves giving the party number a missed call. Ordinary members don’t take part in the BJP’s regular affairs. For active membership, one needs to apply, fill a form and submit a fee of Rs 200. Active members become a part of the party, can go to the party office and get involved in the party work.
In an exclusive chat with ThePrint, Roy said that to regain his active membership, he sent repeated requests, applications and sought meetings with senior central leaders, including general secretaries B.L. Santhosh and Kailash Vijayvargiya, but they were all ignored.
Instead, he told ThePrint, “pretty women, mostly the starlets who never had any connection with politics”, got immediate membership and a confirmed seat.
“This is really unfortunate that a group of party leaders chose Trinamool goons and discards over loyal soldiers like me. Did I not even deserve membership?” he asked. “I have served the party for over four decades now and held high positions. How could these leaders humiliate me like this? I, being a loyalist, gave a missed call and became an ordinary member.”
Sources close to Roy said that he also pitched for an entry to the national executive committee, but was turned down, even as Rajib Banerjee, an ex-Trinamool minister was inducted into the committee in October. Two weeks later, Banerjee returned to Trinamool.
The controversial Roy, who has a history of making communally-charged remarks, is not taking the snubs lightly. He now calls himself a “whistleblower”, and told ThePrint that he is on a mission to “expose those corrupt in the BJP”. His Twitter bio also reflects his “mission”.
“When my term as the governor ended, I expressed my wish to rejoin the party and contribute to Bengal politics. I never asked for a position or a ticket. I went and met Vijayvargiya and then state president Dilip Ghosh,” the septuagenarian said. “I requested them to re-induct me into the party and I told them that I would work under Ghosh’s leadership. But, for some unknown reason, they never responded to my requests. I know many secrets, and I will expose them.”
Roy further added that he wanted an active membership because he surrendered his party membership in 2015, when he became governor.
“Now I understand why they did not want me inside the party. Things were terribly wrong. The party that won 18 seats in a general election (2019) lost all three bypolls the same year,” he said. “There was no analysis on that. Every serious party does it. Vijayvargiya and his pawn Dilip Ghosh did not work for the party. The old guard has been sidelined for a reason. The central leaders started indulging themselves in money and women.”
Roy claimed that he met B.L. Santhosh, national general secretary (organisation), and the party’s national president J.P. Nadda in Delhi and submitted a report.
“I submitted a 10-page report to Naddaji. I explained everything to him and he assured me support. But nothing happened here,” he said.
Roy has been tweeting against his party leaders, especially Vijayvargiya and Ghosh. He claims that he has never been questioned by any top leader or RSS functionary for his tweets.
“Social media is the only place where I can express my views, and people need to know. Had there not been social media, my voice would have been lost,” he said. “I never wanted to embarrass the party and that is why I tried to reach every possible place to express my concern. But I remain unheard.”
‘Roy a liability’
Top BJP leaders, however, think that Roy has now become a liability.
“He is no one to us. Our senior leaders in Delhi know everything about him. He is just frustrated. He knows the process in the party structure, but that still never stopped him from embarrassing the party since the drubbing in Bengal elections,” said a top central leader, who did not wish to be named. “Naddaji asked him to remain silent for some time and support the party, but he did not budge. B.L. Santoshji also scolded him for being such a loose cannon, but he never stopped. He is embarrassing the party and has become a liability.”
Vijayvargiya, who refused to comment on Roy’s allegations against him, said, “There is nothing that our central leaders don’t know. They are well aware of everything that has been happening. They made me general secretary again. So the party has not lost faith in me. Tathagata Roy does not matter.”
Ghosh, now no longer the state president, said, “We do not really give so much importance to him. This is a difficult time and we need to stand shoulder to shoulder with our workers. This is not a time for a public spat or a blame game. We all expected a little maturity from him. What has he given to the party and what has the party given him. He should someday consider that.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)