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Tathagata Roy: how a leftist government got a right-wing governor

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 13 June 2015, 14:10 IST

The bigot

  • BJP leader Tathagata Roy is unabashedly communal.
  • He\'s written two books and 19,000 tweets.
  • He tweets provocatively against Muslims and Christians. And exhorts Hindus to polarise.

The reward & the travesty

  • Roy has been made the Governor of Tripura.
  • This is a travesty: Governors are meant to uphold the Constitution.

The background

  • Roy\'s younger brother Saugata Roy is part of the Trinamool Congress and is a 5-time MLA.
  • Roy himself has never won an election.
  • He\'s a well-read man, though, and a good debater.
  • He\'s also one of the architects of the Kolkata Metro.

The move

  • His elevation to governorship is perhaps a move to get him out of West Bengal.
  • This would allow the BJP to get closer to Mamata without Roy as a thorn.

Tripura's new Governor Tathagata Roy is the author of two books and 19,000 tweets. The books are on the uprooting of the Hindus of Eastern Bengal and life of Jan Sangh founder Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee.

The tweets, however, are on more contemporary subjects like love jihad, Godhra riots, violence against Hindus and the Islamic takeover of West Bengal, among other subjects. It is hard to guess which of these his gubernatorial appointment is a reward for: the books or the tweets.

Under India's Constitution, governors were meant to be august personalities who would 'preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law'. Every ruling dispensation has undermined this by making political appointments to this office, and many of them have been unhappy choices. But the elevation of Tathagata Roy to the status of Governor marks a new low because of his brazenly communal positions.

The Subramaniam Swamy of the East

A noted political observer in West Bengal calls Tathagata Roy the Subramaniam Swamy of West Bengal - erudite, but a staunch believer in radical Hindutva.

His tweets have already generated a lot of controversy. He is said to be rabidly anti-Communist as well as anti-Trinamool. He loves to demolish Mamata Banerjee in public and recently sent out a series of tweets attacking her under the hashtag 'Lady Hitler'. He also betrays a deep hatred for Jawahar Lal Nehru saying that 'most of the ills of this country' can be traced to him.

The snipe and the tweeter

But while those can be excused as political sniping, Roy's tweets on Muslims are of a different order. He berates the media for reporting on communal violence in Uttar Pradesh but ignoring similar incidents in West Bengal and exhorts 'Hindus of West Bengal' to either 'polarise' or 'prepare to be either annihilated or converted'.

Roy's exit from West Bengal politics could have been engineered to help the BJP's overtures to Mamta

In one tweet on 23 March, he said: "One exception (to Hindus running away) was Gujarat, 2002. I'm glad you appreciate what the Hindus did then."

Sample some of his other tweets. 2 April: "I sometimes think how lucky I am, that I am nearly 70 and won't live to see the Islamic takeover of West Bengal."

In another one, sent out earlier on 21 March, he says, "I admire #UjjwalNikam who says he fabricated Biryani story to counter our 'secular' media's campaign to paint Kasab as a 'poor little boy'.

A tweet from 24 February says, "PP Sarsanghchalak Mohanji hs spokn unadulterated truth on Mother Teresa. Read Christopher Hitchens' The Missionary Position for an expose."

The educated bigot

While his younger brother, Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress, is a five-term MLA, three-term MP and former union minister, 69-year-old Tathagata has never found success in electoral politics.

In recent years, he has contested the last two Lok Sabha elections, losing the Kolkata Dakshin seat to Trinamool's Subrata Bakshi by a margin of over 1.36 lakh votes in 2014 and bagging third place on the Kolkata Uttar seat in 2009.

He won only about 37,000 votes as against winner Sudip Bandopadhyay's (Trinamool Congress) over 4.60 lakh votes and runner-up Md Salim's (CPI(M)) over 3.5 lakh votes.

Despite this, Roy is a regular face on news television. Understandably so, given his status as one of the senior-most BJP leaders in the state. Roy nurtured the BJP in West Bengal in the 1990s along with his then colleagues former Union Minister in the NDA government Tapan Sikdar and former governor of Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh Vishnu Kant Shastri.

Roy also served as the President of the BJP's West Bengal around the same time, from 2002 to 2006.

However, controversial tweets and possibly equally controversial statements on television are just one facet of Roy's public life.

In Bengal's political, media as well as academic circles, Roy commands respect as a good debater and well-read man. An engineer by training, he worked for the Indian Railways from 1967 to 1990. Noted political analyst Sibaji Pratim Basu remembers him as one of the architects of Kolkata Metro.

In 1990, he left the Railways and joined Jadavpur University as Professor of construction engineering. Since 2010 he has been a full time politician, even though he joined the RSS way back in 1985 and the BJP in 1990.

Why a leftist state got a rightist governor

Multiple interpretations of Roy's inclusion in the list of new governors have emerged. The seat of West Bengal BJP president will be up for grabs soon, with the three-year term of current chief Rahul Sinha coming to an end later this year.

Seen from this perspective, Roy's Agartala-posting appears more like a removal than a reward. Although, as Keshav Pradhan, resident editor of Times of India, says, removing somebody as senior as Roy one year before the state goes for polls is inexplicable.

The only possibility that makes sense in that case, according to Pradhan, is that Roy requested an elevation in stature after being in state politics for 25 years.

But who else in the party has as much experience in state politics as him, wonders Basu, adding that his exit so close to the Assembly elections indicates a realisation dawning upon the BJP that its prospects are grim.

Roy's exit from West Bengal politics is also being seen from the prism of a perceived warmth between the BJP and the ruling TMC.

His anti-Mamata tweets and statements on television would have been an obstacle to BJP's strategy of wooing TMC for supporting the NDA-government's bills in the Rajya Sabha.

With Roy gone from the state, the relationship could be further smoothened out. The BJP's political requirements in Tripura, of course, cannot be ruled out. The state will now become India's only one to have a Leftist government with a right-leaning Governor.

First published: 26 May 2015, 18:10 IST
Charu Kartikeya @CharuKeya

Assistant Editor at Catch, Charu enjoys covering politics and uncovering politicians. Of nine years in journalism, he spent six happily covering Parliament and parliamentarians at Lok Sabha TV and the other three as news anchor at Doordarshan News. A Royal Enfield enthusiast, he dreams of having enough time to roar away towards Ladakh, but for the moment the only miles he's covering are the 20-km stretch between home and work.