Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader in Uttarakhand Narendra Rautela on Wednesday joined the ruling Congress ahead of next year’s Assembly elections in the state, PTI reported. In what is being seen as a setback for the BJP, Rautela was welcomed to the Congress by state Chief Minister Harish Rawat (pictured above).

Political observers said that Rautela’s defection is a positive development for the Congress. However, state BJP spokesperson MS Chauhan said the move will make “no difference” to the party. “Even while he was with us, he worked for [the] Congress,” he said. “It is good riddance for [the] BJP.” Rautela is from Ranikhet, which is represented in the state Assembly by state BJP president Ajay Bhatt.

Uttarakhand was under President’s Rule for nearly two months after rebel Congress leaders supported the Bharatiya Janata Party when it staked its claim to form a government in the state. But, the Harish Rawat-led Congress government won a floor test in the state Assembly after the Supreme Court upheld a high court verdict that banned the nine rebel Congress MLAs from voting in it.