The ‘elite intellectual’, from Railway Engineer to GM to Prof to Politician to Governor

Tathagata Roy studied civil engineering , worked with Indian Railways as General Manager and Chief Engineer (Designs) at Kolkata Metro, and taught at Jadavpur University before joining BJP; he also has a law degree from Calcutta University and has authored various books.
Tathagata Roy (69) is an Indian politician, Engineer and an Author, has been appointed as the new Governor of Tripura. He was president of the West Bengal state unit of Bhartiya Janata Party from 2002 till 2006.
Tathagata Roy (69) is an Indian politician, Engineer and an Author, has been appointed as the new Governor of Tripura. He was president of the West Bengal state unit of Bhartiya Janata Party from 2002 till 2006

Tathagata Roy may well have rued that his new posting as Tripura governor will no longer allow him to post political tweets — many of which come across as the views of a champion of Hindutva ideals — but those who know him believe he is more a member of the “elite intellectual class” than a grassroots politician. As such, colleagues in the BJP say, the new job holds out more promise for Tathagata than his political career of about two-and-a-half decades did.

Though Tathagata has been BJP chief in West Bengal (2002-06), his primary contribution was largely in the form of writing articles, researching issues such as infiltration and demography, and participating in debates, says Asim Sarkar, a general secretary in the state unit.

Tathagata, 69, used to be an engineer with Metro Railways before he joined the BJP. Sarkar recalls how, in the early 1980s, Tathagata would often visit the BJP state headquarters to inspect cracks the building had developed because of the Metro construction underground. Once he left that job to join Jadavpur University to teach engineering, he grew more involved with the BJP and joined the party in the mid-80s. He soon became a key orator and rose steadily with his scholarly qualities backed up by an amiable, gentle demeanour.

“But frankly speaking,” says Sarkar, “Tathagata was not the sort to sweat it out on the ground; he did not have that tenacity. What he had was a solid ideological basis. The people of Tripura have got a very sensitive, caring governor in him. He is more of an academic ideologue for the party.”

Tathagata has contested and lost several elections, including from the Kolkata South Lok Sabha seat in 2014.

Born in 1945 in Kolkata, Tathagata was a brilliant student and bagged the Jagadish Bose National Science Talent Search award. He studied civil engineering at Bengal Engineering College, Shibpur, now renamed Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology.

Later he joined Indian Railways Service of Engineers, worked as General Manager, RITES and as Chief Engineer -Design of Metro Railways, Calcutta. He also holds a Law Degree of Calcutta University. Roy took voluntary retirement in 1990. He then joined Jadavpur University as professor and founder head of the Department of Construction Engineering. He is a former Chairman Board of Governors of TTTI Calcutta (2000 to 2005). He is a fellow of the Institution of Engineers and life member of the Indian Council of Arbitration.

His colleagues credit him with setting up JU’s department of construction engineering. Tathagata also has a law degree from Calcutta University and has argued arbitration cases.

He is the eldest of three brothers, one whom is Saugata Roy, the Trinamool Congress MP.  Politics does not come in the way of family relations. “I don’t want to talk about our politics,” says Saugata, “but my brother was always a brilliant student and became a railway officer after his engineering degree. Eventually he became an important functionary of the BJP. I haven’t the slightest doubt about his competence and about his commitment to his beliefs.”

During the Lok Sabha polls, Tathagata was often on TV debating Bangladeshi infiltration and cross-border crime, his remarks sometimes laced with sarcasm against political rivals while never breaching the limits of decency. “Tathagata loved publicity and was somewhat hungry for it,” a critic within the BJP says.

A member of Calcutta Club and Bengal Club, Tathagata is also an author. A key work is My People, Uprooted: A Saga of the Hindus of Eastern Bengal, later reprinted as A Suppressed Chapter in History: The Exodus of Hindus from East Pakistan and Bangladesh, 1947-2006. Another book is The Life and Times of Dr Syam Prasad Mookerjee.

Asim Mitra, a journalist and RSS pracharak, describes Tathagata as extremely dynamic. In the 1980s when Tathagata joined the RSS, he attended two camps of a month each, Mitra says. Such camps, now reduced to 25 days a year, involve tough physical exercises to be cleared alongside ideological indoctrination, Mitra says.

A member of the BJP’s national executive committee until his new posting, Tathagata is the second leader to become a governor after heading the Bengal BJP; the first was Vishnu Kanta Shastri who became Uttar Pradesh governor.

The state BJP leadership has been citing Tathagata’s posting, along with Babul Supriyo’s ministerial berth, as a signal of West Bengal’s importance for the central leadership.

“Tathagata is not one to sit idle in Governor’s House in Tripura,” says Asim Sarkar, the general secretary. “The people of Tripura might be looking for new chapters on the state’s history, ethnic communities or demography. Tathagata is sure to be working on those.”