Henry L. Khojol | Nov 6, 2018 | 5 min read
Ahead of Mizoram Assembly elections, Speaker Hiphei resigns from Congress, joins BJP
Henry L. Khojol
In a huge blow to Mizoram Congress, veteran party leader and Assembly Speaker Hiphei switched camps and moved to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday after he was shown apathy over his candidature in the upcoming Assembly elections on November 28.
The seven-time Congress legislator submitted his resignation letter to Deputy Speaker R. Lalrinawma in the morning and later quit from the primary membership of the party. 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 his resignation, Hiphei said he was unhappy with the party leadership as he was not favoured on his candidature despite the AICC approval.
“Mara Autonomous District Congress Committee (MADCC) nomination board recommended my name thrice and AICC approved that I would be the official Congress candidate for Palak constituency. But I was kept in the dark. The state Congress failed to officially release a list of candidate several days after the AICC approved my name,” he alleged.
Once a staunch BJP critic, Hiphei said he was happy to join the saffron party as he did not come across any anti-Christian elements in the party’s ideology after an in-depth research. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has nearly completed his tenure but during these five years, the BJP government did not amend our constitution to alter the secular feature. The party completely believes in secularism and the BJP-led government would not pose any threat to the Mizos and their religion,” he said.
After submitting his resignation, Hiphei went to the BJP office and joined the saffron party where he was accorded a warm welcome. During his maiden speech at the BJP office, Hiphei said he joined the party as he wanted to contribute towards the development of the state and also mentioned the assurances made by the central leadership.
At a recent meeting in New Delhi with BJP president Amit Shah, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and other leaders, Hiphei said he was asked to join the party and was promised an amendment to the sixth schedule of the Constitution to enhance powers of autonomous district councils in Mizoram and create provision for direct funding to the councils.
The senior leader expressed hope that out of the 40 seats in the Mizoram Assembly, BJP would bag at least five. He added that Congress is likely to be defeated due to the internal differences and squabbles that have invaded the grand old party. The 81-year-old political figure said his decision to quit came after state Congress president and Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla failed to give a ‘green signal’ for his candidature.“The Congress was very unkind to me. Thanhawla and other party leaders not only failed to approve my name but also told me to resign,” he alleged.
Despite being included in the list initially, Hiphei’s name was later dropped as the official Congress candidate for Palak after six members of Mara Autonomous District Council (MADC) objected to his nomination and asked Thanhawla to give the 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 would surely lose the election.
Hiphei, who will now be contesting the Assembly elections from his home turf Palak on a BJP ticket, said he was confident of winning the polls. “The people of Palak sympathize with me. I have received strong support from the people and I am confident that I will win the polls on this new (BJP) ticket,” he said adding that the December 11 election results would be in BJP’s favour.
Congress spokesperson Lallianchhunga said Hiphei’s resignation was unlikely to impact Congress’s prospects in the state as he had been under the scanner for a long time. He added that Congress was suspicious of Hiphei’s link with BJP—which is considered as a communal and anti-Christian party by Mizos—after he sold his building to the party a few years ago.
Political observers in Mizoram, however, believe that the move is likely to affect Congress since Hiphei is an influential mass leader.
Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) spokesperson Lallianchhunga mentioned that Hiphei’s steadfast loyalty to the Congress contributed towards his stellar political career—which included his work as a Minister of State and as a two-time Rajya Sabha MP. His move to join the BJP might be the beginning of the end of his political career, he speculated.
Hiphei, also known as ‘Father of Mara’ (Mara is a native tribe in Mizoram), has also served as a Rajya Sabha member for two terms during 1990 – 1996 and 1996 – 2002. He became the Assembly Speaker in 2013 after winning the Palak constituency for Congress.
(with inputs from Ezrela Dalidia Fanai)
More stories published under