Jolt for Congress in Mizoram, Speaker quit party, joins BJP

Aizawl/Guwahati,(IANS) Ahead of the Assembly polls, in a big jolt for the ruling Congress, Mizoram assembly Speaker Hiphei on November 5 resigned from his post and the party before joining the BJP.
Hiphei is the fifth legislators of the ruling Congress in Mizoram to have resigned from both the House and the party since September.
Mizoram is the only state out of eight in the north-east to be ruled by the Congress. Polls are due for the 40-member Mizoram assembly on November 28.
On November 5 morning, the seven-time Congress legislator said he sent his resignation letter to Deputy Speaker R. Lalrinawma, who accepted it.
Hiphei then went to Congress Bhavan, the state party headquarters, and resigned from the primary membership of the party.
“I was kept in an uncertain position even after the AICC announced my name to contest the assembly polls from Palak constituency (in Siaha district),” Hiphei later told the media, expressing his resentment against Chief Minister and Mizoram Pradesh Congress President Lal Thanhawla.
“I would be contesting from the Palak constituency on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket,” he said, adding the BJP in alliance with the local parties would form a coalition government in the state.
“The Congress would be defeated. The BJP would secure at least five seats in the polls to the 40-member Mizoram assembly,” the Congress-turned BJP leader said.
Hiphei was elected to the Mizoram Assembly from Palak constituency in 2013 and he won the assembly elections six times between 1972 and 1989 from Tuipang.
In Guwahati, convenor of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said : “Hiphei is a very senior leader in Mizoram. His joining the BJP would greatly strengthen the party.”
BJP leaders in Mizoram have confidently declared that they would make all-out efforts to vote out the Congress in the state to “paint the North-East with the saffron colour.”
The BJP has undertaken intensive efforts to win the Christian-dominated state, after having formed governments on its own or in alliance with allies in the remaining six northeastern states.
Meanwhile, the ruling Congress, which is governing the state, except for ten years — 1998-2003 and 2003-2008 — since it became a full-fledged state in 1987, during the past two months has suffered a major setback.
Senior Congress leader and state Home Minister R. Lalzirliana and three sitting legislators, Lalrinliana Sailo, Buddha Dhan Chakma, both former ministers, and Hmingdailova Khiangte have resigned from the party.
While Lalzirliana and Sailo joined opposition Mizo National Front (MNF) and Chakma joined BJP, Khiangte has said he will contest as an independent.
With the resignations of Hiphei, the Congress’ strength in the 40-member house is reduced to 29, while MNF has six lawmakers. Five seats are vacant after the resignations of five Congress legislators.
The MNF, a local party, which ruled the state for two terms (1998-2003 and 2003-2008), is also confident to form the government in support of the other local parties.
Both the BJP and the MNF are yet to declare a pre-poll or post-poll alliance, but political circles predict that they might support each other in forming the government after the polls.
MNF is a constituent of the BJP-led NEDA.
BJP President Amit Shah has already visited the bordering state and addressed party workers last month. Prime Minister Narendra Modi would visit the state on November 18 to campaign for the saffron party.

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