In a massive setback to the Congress in Bengal ahead of the national elections, party MP Mausam Benazir Noor joined the Trinamool Congress on Monday, ending months of speculations.
The second-term Congress MP met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at state secretariat 'Nabanna' during the day, following which the announcement was made.
Noor, niece of Congress stalwart A B A Ghani Khan Choudhury, have quite often been taking stands which were not in line with that of the party's state leadership.
The Malda (North) MP has been a strong advocate of electoral alliance with the TMC to fend off the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state.
She met Banerjee in November last year, giving rise to speculations.
Noor's uncle Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury, the Congress MP from Malda (South), is also in favour of forging an alliance with the TMC.
Talking to reporters after the announcement, Noor said, "I'm inspired by Didi (Mamata). I'll work under her guidance for the development of the state.
"I believe that she is the last word for everything. We have to fight against the BJP and I'm quite confident that the TMC will win all the 42 seats in West Bengal in the Lok Sabha elections."
"Barkat sahib (Khan Chowdhury) carried out so many development works for Malda and now people have faith in Didi. We are with her. We will do everything to stop the BJP in West Bengal," she added.
Soon after her joining, Banerjee announced that Noor will be Trinamool's general secretary and would be taking care of the party in Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur and Malda.
"She (Noor) will start working from tomorrow. She will also participate in the rally on January 30," Banerjee said.
Asked whom she would like to see as the next prime minister, Noor said, "As a Bengali I will like to see Didi in the post."
The bordering district of Malda has been a Congress bastion for several decades. Even after the Trinamool Congress formed government in the state, the Congress maintained its hold on the district.
Shocked with Noor changing sides just ahead of the elections, the Congress said the Trinamool is trying to finish the grand old party in the state and is paving the way for 'communal' BJP.
"TMC's claim that it wants to fight the BJP and strengthen secular forces in Bengal and India is absolutely bogus and this poaching of our MP is the biggest example of that," state Congress chief Somen Mitra said.
"If someone wants to leave Congress and join some other party how can we stop him or her... When I met Congress president Rahul Gandhi last year I had told him to talk to Mausam as she might switch over to TMC," Mitra, who himself rejoined Congress after quitting as Trinamool's Diamond Harbour MP, said.
He said the Congress will put up its candidate from the Malda (North) constituency.
A senior TMC leader said Noor's joining TMC is an important development in state politics. "A family member of Barkat da realised that the only hope for the state is the TMC."
This is the first time that a Congress MP defected to the Trinamool since 2011.
After 2016 assembly polls, 14 Congress MLAs have switched over to the TMC.