Aizawl: The ruling Congress in Mizoram suffered yet another major blow on Monday as the incumbent assembly speaker and veteran Congress leader Hiphei resigned from his post as well as the house and quit the Congress and joined the traditional rival party- the BJP after he was shown apathy over his candidature.
Hiphei submitted his resignation letter to deputy speaker R. Lalrinawma in the morning and later tendered his resignation from his primary membership of Congress to party leaders in Congress Bhavan.
He was the fifth Congress legislator to resign from the state legislature in two months after R. Lalzirliana, Lalrinliana Sailo, Dr BD Chakma and Hmingdailova Khiangte.
Speaking to reporters at his bungalow after submitting resignation, the seven-time Congress legislator said he was unhappy with the party leadership as he was not given favour over his candidature despite the AICC has already approved his name.
“Mara Autonomous District Congress Committee (MADCC) nomination board has recommended me for three times and the AICC has approved my name to be Congress official candidate for Palak constituency. But I was kept in an uncertain situation and the Congress failed to officially release candidate list even many days after the AICC has approved my name,” he alleged.
He said that he has to quit his post and left Congress because party president and chief minister Lal Thanhawla failed to give ‘green signal’ for his candidature.
“Lal Thanhawla and other party leaders have not only failed to approve my name but also told me to resign. The Congress was very unkind to me,” he alleged.
Initially, Hiphei was included in Congress official candidate for Palak constituency but later dropped from the list after six members of Mara Autonomous District Council (MADC) objected him and asked Lal Thanhawla to give party ticket to another contestant K. Riachho, a retired IAS officer.
Despite an appeal by the party leadership, Hiphei said he was reluctant to vacate his seat in favour of Riachho as the latter is sure to lose in the polls.
After submitting his resignation, Hiphei went straight to the BJP office and joined the party. He was given a warm welcome at the BJP office where he delivered his maiden speech there.
The 81-year-old leader said he joined the BJP as the central leadership promised to give greater autonomy to Mara Autonomous District Council (MADC).
He said that he recently met BJP president Amit Shah, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and other party leaders in New Delhi, who asked him to join the BJP by promising amendment to the sixth schedule of the Constitution to enhance powers of autonomous district councils in Mizoram and create a provision for direct funding to the councils.
Hiphei, who was against the BJP ideology when he was a Congressman, said he is happy to join the party as he did not come across any anti-Christian elements in the BJP’s ideology after in-depth study.
“Prime Minister Modi has almost completed his five-year term but during those years the BJP government did not amend our constitution to alter the secular feature. The BJP completely believe in secularism and the BJP government would not pose any threat to the Mizos and their religion,” he said.
He said that he will contest from his home turf Palak constituency on BJP ticket and expressed confidence of winning the poll.
“The people of Palak constituency sympathize me. I receive strong support from the people and I am confident that I will win the polls on this new (BJP) ticket,” he said.
The veteran politician also said that the BJP will form the government in Mizoram after the assembly elections.
Election to the 40-member Mizoram assembly is scheduled to be held on 28 November and results will be announced on 11 December.
Hiphei expressed hope that the BJP would bag at least 5 seats in the upcoming polls.
He added that the internal differences and squabbles that are invading the Congress has manifested that the party would be defeated in the polls.
Hiphei, who is also known as ‘Father of Mara’ has been elected as a legislator for seven times since 1972.
In 1972 and 1978, he was elected as an independent from Tuipang constituency. In 1979, he was elected from the same constituency on Janata Party ticket and Congress ticket in 1984, 1987 and 1989.
He also served as Rajya Shabha member for two terms during 1990 – 1996 and 1996 – 2002.
In 2013, he was elected from Palak on Congress ticket and became the assembly speaker in the present government.
Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Lallianchhunga said the resignation of Hiphei would not have any impact on Congress prospect.
He said that Hiphei was under scanner since a long time as the Congress was suspicious of his link with the BJP after he sold his building to the party few years back.
He expressed regret for Hiphei joining the BJP, which is considered by the Mizo people as a communal and anti-Christian party.