In a severe jolt to the ruling Trinamool Congress, its four-time MLA and former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee joined BJP in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Efforts were on in TMC to bring Chatterjee, who was on a sabbatical, to active politics again.
"We never thought Sovan would ultimately join BJP. It is true that BJP leaders were in touch with him but we never believed that he could betray Mamata Banerjee, whom he used to describe as Maa (mother)," a senior TMC leader said.
"His joining will have a bearing on TMC's organisation in South 24 Paraganas district and also on Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections slated to be held next year. The party missed his political and organisation acumen during the Lok Sabha polls," said another TMC leader.
Known for his organisational capabilities and his ability to manage finances, Chatterjee was in the top echelons of TMC and was a trusted lieutenant of TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee
He had been a councillor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation for three decades, served as mayor of Kolkata twice besides being a minister before going on a sabbatical since 2018.
Chatterjee's joining the BJP is the latest in the flight of TMC MLAs to the saffron party since the decalaration of the Lok Sabha results. It comes at a time when TMC is having a tough time in state politics post its dismal performance in Lok Sabha polls.
Six TMC MLAs, besides one each from the Congress and the CPI-M had also joined the BJP with the saffron party wooing rival party leaders to bolster its strength ahead of the 2021 West Bengal assembly polls.
According to TMC oldtimers, Banerjee had played a key role in shaping his political career, which like her had begun as a Youth Congress activist.
Banerjee used to publicly call him by his pet name 'Kanon'.
After the party's stupendous victory in the 2016 assembly polls, Chatterjee, who was then the Kolkata mayor, was rewarded the most and given the charge of three crucial departments.
But due to problems in his personal life he was asked to step down both as minister and mayor by Banerjee herself in November last year. Since then he was on sabbatical from active politics.
On Wednesday seated beside top BJP leaders in New Delhi at the party's headquarters, Chatterjee criticised the "violence and undemocratic atmosphere" in which the 2018 panchayat polls were conducted in the state.
West Bengal BJP leader Mukul Roy, who was present, said Chatterjee was one of those leaders who has made a big contribution to Banerjee's rise to the post of chief minister.
"He will now strengthen the BJP... Let me repeat that TMC will not even get the status of the opposition party," he told reporters.
TMC was quick to hit out and said Chatterjee would be expelled from the party.
The final announcement on his expulsion would be made soon, a TMC leader said,
Chatterjee's friend Baishaki Banerjee, who is a leader of TMC's education cell, too joined BJP along with him.
The BJP has made deep inroads in Bengal in the Lok Sabha polls by winning 18 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, just four less than TMC.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)