Mizoram’s ruling Congress party on Monday expelled R. Lalzirliana, three days after the veteran politician resigned as the poll-bound State’s Home Minister.Mr. Lalzirliana, a vice president of the party’s State unit, was regarded as the most influential Congress leader in Mizoram after Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, who would be completing his second successive term when elections to the 40-member assembly are held by the year end.“We had to issue the expulsion order for the larger interest of the party and under the present circumstances,” C. Lalpianthanga, chairman of the disciplinary action committee of the Congress’s Mizoram State unit said in a statement, explaining the rationale behind the party’s decision. Mr. Lalpianthanga added that the party had tried to avoid expelling Mr. Lalzirliana, 69, who had been a “pillar of strength” and a “guiding force”.The Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) had on September 14 served a show-cause notice to Mr. Lalzirliana — hours before he announced his resignation from the State Cabinet — asking him to clarify several statements reportedly made by him to the local media that could ‘affect the integrity’ of the party.There has been speculation in the local media in recent days that Mr. Lalzirliana may be set to join a rival party, with the most widely talked about possibility being the Mizo National Front (MNF). The MNF is a member of the North East Development Alliance of regional parties helmed by the Bharatiya Janata Party.While MNF president and former chief minister Zoramthanga has indicated Mr. Lalzirliana could join his party, speculation of a possible move to the National People’s Party also gathered momentum after Meghalaya’s Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong called on him at his residence in Aizawl last week.Mr. Lalzirliana, who is yet to spell out his plans, has, however, insisted that the recent chain of events had been triggered by his unwillingness to compromise over his demand for declaring Saitual and the area it administers a full-fledged district.“The Chief Minister had promised to upgrade Saitual into a district but failed to do so,” he said.Saitual is the major town of Tawi constituency that Mr. Lalzirliana has represented for four terms.Separately, the portfolios handled by the expelled leader including the crucial Home, Excise and Power ministries were put under the direct charge of Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, according to a notification from the State government.