Aizawl, Nov 5: Giving a major political jolt to the ruling Congress, Mizoram Speaker and party veteran Hiphei (uses one name) on Monday resigned from his constitutional post and gave up his membership as MLA and also from the Congress party and joined BJP here.
"I have joined BJP today, the next government in Mizoram will be headed by BJP," Hiphei, 81, told reporters here. Justifying his decision to join the saffron party - despite its known pro-Hindutva slant, Mr Hiphei dispelled notions that the BJP is an 'anti-Christian party'.
"There will be no threat to Christians and we can say this from experience. During last four-and-half years, the NDA government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not bring any change to the constitution. The secularism remains principal guiding force of governance in India, so where is the threat?," he said.
Mr Hiphei, who dissociated his five-decade-old association with the Congress, said he met BJP chief Amit Shah and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi during last few days. "Both of them assured me that there will be greater autonomy for the Mara Autonomous District Council (MADC)," he said.
Political observers said Mr Hiphei was given Congress ticket for Palak, his strong bastion, but he rejected it and opened channels with BJP. Hiphei is the fifth leader from Congress to quit the party and the state assembly in the run up to the polls in last two months. To a question, he said, in political sense there is "no difference" between the Congress and the BJP but he felt hurt and anguished with the Congress Mizoram chief and Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla.
"Well, he made me Speaker, but there was no favour....After that he did not show any sympathy or respect to me. Ticket is not important. I would have got it from high command, but the issues closer to my people and my respect is important," Mr Hiphei said.
Local political observer L Albert says, "At the age of 81, Mr Hiphei wants to go down the history as a leader of the Mara ethnic group and is more keen for central BJP's commitment to uplift the MADC region". Carved out in the southern tip of Mizoram state, an autonomous council was established and from the erstwhile Pawi-Lakher Regional Council on May 29, 1971 and separated the next year as Lakher Autonomous District Council. It was renamed as MADC in 1988.
Earlier in the day, Mr Hiphei handed over his resignation to the Deputy Speaker of the state assembly Deputy Speaker R Lalrinawama.He was accompanied on the occasion by senior BJP leader B D Chakma, also a former Congress leader, among others.
Mr Hiphei is known as a strongman from Palak assembly segment in Siaha district and will now contest from the seat in November 28 polls. "The decision of Mr Hiphei to reject Congress ticket is a snub to Rahul Gandhi from a prominent and veteran Christian tribal leader from the north east," BJP leader H Lalruata said. UNI