KOLKATA: Apparently readying herself for a life without her 'man-Friday' Mukul Roy in the party, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today virtually initiated the process of clipping the wings of the party number two in a major reshuffle of the organisation today.
The reshuffle saw Banerjee, West Bengal Chief Minister, rewarding her close associates with additional responsibilities and elevating former Union Minister Dinesh Trivedi to the vice-presidents' post and Roy was left in the cold.
"Trinamool Congress has appointed Subrata Bakshi, a party MP as additional all-India general secretary. He is a founder-member," party secretary-general Partha Chatterjee told reporters after the meeting.
Mukul Roy, who has been made to share responsibility as the all-India general secretary with Bakshi, a staunch Mamata loyalist, was conspicuous by his absence from the closed-door meeting convened at Mamata's residence to discuss the party’s preparedness for the coming civic polls.
Asked to explain the absence of Roy, a key party organiser, Chatterjee said "He (Roy) is busy with political activities and has been absent at the meeting by taking prior permission from the party".
Roy, a Rajya Sabha member who was recently quizzed by CBI in Saradha chit fund scam, being left out of additional responsibilities that were given to some of his party colleagues, came amid media speculation of differences between him and the party supremo.
Roy recently said that he was part and parcel of the party, when asked if there was a rift between him and the party leadership.
He also participated in the party's campaign for the by-election to Bongaon Lok Sabha and Krishnaganj Assembly seats in West Bengal which was held yesterday Chatterjee said party MP Derek O'Brien, state Urban Development minister Firhad Hakim and party Lok Sabha member Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar were elevated to the national committee of the party.
He said O'Brien and the party Lok Sabha member Kalyan Banerjee would keep in touch with like-minded parties.
Mamata was reportedly upset about the absence of Roy in today's meeting.
Party insiders said that at the start of the meeting, Mamata wanted to know where Mukul was. At that stage, sources said, Derek O'Brien gave her a chit wherein Roy reportedly expressed his inability to attend the meeting due to preoccupation with political activities.
Later, Roy told reporters replying to a question on the reason for his absence in the meeting that "Why I did not go, the party leader (Mamata Banerjee) knows. Anyway, whatever is done is done for the good."
Told about the additional responsibilities given to his party colleagues, Roy said "the party has become big and the organisation has become large and for that they (some of his party colleagues) might have been given those (additional responsibilities).
Roy, known for his organisational acumen, was questioned by CBI on January 30 in connection with Saradha chit fund scam. He had said that he wanted the "actual truth" to come out. He also gave an assurance that he would cooperate with the probe agency.
CBI and Enforcement Directorate have already questioned several TMC MPs and other people in the scam which put TMC at unease.
Roy of late was reportedly distancing himself from party supremo.
Dinesh Trivedi, who was appointed vice-president of the party, had recently caused a flutter in party circles by singing fulsome praise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which set off speculation in the media that he would switch over to BJP, though he maintained that he was still with TMC.
Trivedi was forced by Mamata to resign in 2012 as Railway Minister in the Manmohan Singh cabinet after his budget contained a passenger fare hike against the wishes of the party supremo.
Chatterjee said that state Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee had been given the charge of party affairs in Tripura.
"Derek O'Brien will oversee the party's organization in the Northeast and Kerala. Suvendu Adhikari, another party MP, will oversee Assam," he said.
The party's MLAs and MPs and district unit presidents were present at today's nearly two-hour meeting at Banerjee's residence.
Entrusting Trinamool Congress MP and nephew Abhishek Banerjee with more responsibilities, Trinamool Congress supremo had merged the 'Trinamool Congress Yuva' with the party's youth wing and Abhishek was made president of the unified body some months ago.