Manpreet Singh Badal, chief of the People’s Party of Punjab, announced on Friday that he was merging his party with the Congress. The move comes as a boost to the Congress in the state ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections. Manpreet Singh Badal is the nephew of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh, and had left his Shiromani Akali Dal party to form the PPP in 2011.

On Friday, Manpreet Singh Badal met with Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, the Hindustan Times reported. Former Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa confirmed the development and said Badal’s entry will boost Congress’ poll campaign. “He is a promising face ... is secular in character and holds credibility in the Malwa region,” Bajwa said. Former chief minister Amarinder Singh also welcomed Badal into the party.

Punjab is looking at a three-way contest in the polls, scheduled for early 2017. It is expected to be a tough fight between the Congress, the Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party, which is also looking to expand its presence in the state.