In a major setback to the Congress on the eve of the Assembly elections in Gujarat, the Municipal Corporation of Gandhinagar on Wednesday fell to the BJP when its sitting mayor with two other corporators crossed over to it.

Gandhinagar was elevated to the level of municipal corporation only last year, and the Congress had created a stir by capturing the capital city civic body in the first general election, giving a rude shock to Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Mayor Mahendrasinh Rana, however, developed differences with the State Congress leadership, and a letter recently written by him to State Congress president Arjun Modhvadia, praising Mr. Modi’s “developmental programmes,” gave a clear indication of his possible defection to the BJP. On Wednesday, Mr. Rana, along with two Congress members of the civic body Hansa Modi and Suresh Pandav, formally joined the BJP, bringing its strength to 18 in the 33-member municipal corporation.

Sources close to Mr. Rana claimed that defection of three other Congress corporators were also in the pipeline, but if the party managed to retain the disgruntled members, Mr. Rana and two others would face disqualification under the anti-defection law, putting the Gandhinagar civic body in the limbo. After the three members, including the mayor, crossed over, the Congress strength has come down to 15 in the civic body.

Except Junagadh, which was captured by the Congress more than four years ago, the Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation was the only civic body to provide a silver lining to the Congress’ otherwise pathetic performance in the elections in urban areas in the State. Besides six municipal corporations of the total eight, including Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar, the BJP is also in control of over 150 of the 180-odd municipalities.