A Arunachalam, the founding general secretary of actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan’s party Makkal Needhi Maiam, on Friday joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in the presence of Union minister Prakash Javadekar.

Arunachalam said that he left the party due to differences over the three farming laws, The Hindu reported. “I come from a farmers’ family,” he was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “So I can say that farmers know what benefits these laws will give them. I took these up with Kamal Haasan and the MNM leadership. But they did not pay heed to my views.”

Arunachalam claimed that the Opposition parties only wanted to deprive farmers of the benefits of the laws. He had urged Makkal Needhi Maiam to not join those parties in opposing the legislations.

He claimed that there was no support for the farmers’ protest outside Punjab and Haryana, The New Indian Express reported. “It is an agitation induced by political forces,” he said. “Many joined the MNM with the expectation that it would point out the pros and cons of issues. A centrist party cannot come to electoral politics since its objective is to put forth neutral criticism about issues.”

Soon after Arunachalam joined the BJP, Makkal Needhi Maiam Vice President R Mahendran announced that he had been expelled for anti-party activities.

Arunachalam’s decision to join the BJP is being seen as a setback to the Haasan-led party ahead of Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu next year.

Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for a month against the laws now, withstanding the intensifying cold. On Saturday, they accepted the Centre’s offer for talks to end the deadlock over the laws.