With Lok Sabha elections just a month away, the predictable attrition from political parties has begun - and just as expected, the BJP has drawn first blood. Days after the saffron party welcomed defectors from Opposition parties, particularly the Congress, across states like Gujarat, Bengal and Maharashtra, Congress leader Tom Vadakkan too switched sides.
Vadakkan's entry into the BJP may make little impact on the Congress party's electoral prospects but it certainly is a setback for the Grand Old Party in the perception battle.
A familiar face on news channels, Vadakkan had been one of the Congress party's many media panelists. But the BJP's euphoria, reflected unambiguously on the social media through Thursday, over including Vadakkan in its ranks possibly emanates from the fact that he has been a Congress insider for well over two decades.
In 1997, when Sonia Gandhi took the reins of the Congress, Vadakkan was among the men she drafted in to come up with a coherent media strategy for her party which had been battered at the hustings. Ever since, Vadakkan has stayed as a backroom boy of the Congress media cell.
Congress leaders often joked that if no party spokesperson was available to give media bites, Vadakkan would come to the rescue, lurking as he was always at 24, Akbar Road. But then, perhaps being in the shadows was not enough for Vadakkan.
After Sonia passed on the baton to her son, Rahul Gandhi, the party began placing greater emphasis on expanding its footprint on the social media, a platform the BJP had used with great efficiency in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and since. The transition in leadership also meant a transition in the foot soldiers and Rahul placed greater faith in the likes of Randeep Surjewala, Priyanka Chaturvedi and Divya Spandana to come up with a social media strategy that can rival the BJP's massive outreach on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Vadakkan was no longer among the favourites.
For public consumption, Vadakkan's stated reason for quitting the Congress was his unease at the party's questioning of the Indian Air Force's strikes in Balakot, Pakistan as a response to the terror attack in Kashmir's Pulwama.
Congress sources, however, say Vadakkan let his ambition get the better of him. It is learnt that Vadakkan had been lobbying for a Congress ticket in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls from his home state, Kerala. However, given his lack of experience in electoral politics - he has never contested an election - and doubts over his winnability, the Congress wasn't keen to oblige.
In Vadakkan, the BJP has bagged an English speaking Christian from Kerala, a state where the saffron tide is yet to make any ripples despite its deafening noise over the Sabarimala verdict. There is a buzz in the BJP corridors that the party might even give him a ticket from Thrissur, his home town in Kerala.
But, even more importantly, the BJP has also won over a Congress insider, who till a day ago was a Nehru-Gandhi loyalist, and may be privy to information about that can be harnessed for political mudslinging in the polls.