Ending months of speculation over his next move, former Kolkata mayor and Trinamool Congress MLA Sovan Chatterjee joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday.
Chatterjee, a four-time MLA of the TMC and a councillor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation for over three decades, along with his close associate Baishakhi Banerjee, a leader of the TMC's education cell, joined the BJP in the presence of its senior West Bengal leader Mukul Roy and its national general secretary Arun Singh.
He was asked to step down both as a minister in the TMC government and as Kolkata mayor by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in November last year following troubles in his personal life. After that, he took a sabbatical from active politics.
Roy had long been persuading Chatterjee, an MLA from the Behala-Purba Assembly segment in south Kolkata, to join the BJP, while the TMC also made efforts recently to get him back into active party role.
Welcoming him, Roy described the TMC leader as a 'personality' of the state politics and as one of the few leaders who made a big contribution in the rise of Mamata Banerjee to the post of chief minister.
"It is a big day for the BJP in West Bengal... He will strengthen the BJP. It will certainly win the Kolkata Municipal Corporation poll and let me repeat that TMC will not even get the status of the opposition party in the assembly polls," he said.
Chatterjee, who also held several portfolios in the Banerjee government as a minister, lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah for their bold leadership and said there should be no place for negative politics, an apparent attack on TMC supremo.
Chatterjee's switch-over marks the defection of yet another MLA of the ruling party to the saffron fold.
Six TMC MLAs, and one each of Congress and Communist Party of India-Marxist have switched over to BJP since the results of Lok Sabha polls were announced in May, with the saffron party wooing rival party leaders to bolster its strength in the run up to the next assembly polls in the state, due in 2021.
Asserting that a wave of change is visible in the state, Arun Singh said the BJP is certain to oust Banerjee from power.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation is scheduled to go to polls next year and Chatterjee's switch-over will be a major boost for the BJP, which made deep inroads in the state in the Lok Sabha polls by winning 18 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats, just four less than the TMC.