Rishang Keishing, 94, arguably India’s – perhaps the world’s – oldest lawmaker who has served four terms in parliament, laments the depths to which parliamentary proceedings have plummeted but is confident that the younger generation will restore the balance.
The four-time Manipur chief minster, who has escaped many an assassination attempt, says it’s time to bid adieu to active politics when his second Rajya Sabha term expires April 9, but he’ll continue to serve the people in a “different capacity”.
Reminiscing about his two terms as a Lok Sabha member (the first on the Indian Socialist Party ticket), the veteran Congress leader rued the behaviour of members disrupting the proceedings as had happened in the last few sessions.
“I feel very sad about what we now see in parliament. It is no longer what it used to be. I remember those constructive, articulate debates which make you think. Members respected the speaker and no one disrupt the proceedings,” Keishing told IANS in an interview on return from New Delhi.
“But these days we see members shouting on top of their voices in the temple of democracy and members rushing to the well of the house instead of spending their valuable time inside the house. I am telling you people are watching what is happening inside parliament. I am worried that people may not respect parliament any more and aren’t you worried too?” he asked.
At the same time, he has not lost hope as he strongly feels that India’s younger generation “is well-educated and many of them are now taking part in active politics to take the country to a new path of development and to do it further good”.
Keishing said last week it was time to change tack.
“I have had enough (of electoral politics). But it doesn’t mean that I will sit idle at home. I still have a lot of work to serve all sections of people to ensure peace and bring development across Manipur,” Keishing said.
His eldest son, Victor Keishing, has already followed in his footsteps and is now a lawmaker in the 60-member Manipur assembly.
The tribal Thangkhul Naga, who hails from Bungpa Khunou village in Ukhrul district, made his maiden entry into the Lok Sabha on the Indian Socialist Party ticket in 1952. Keishing, who had worn different political hats as chief minister, assembly speaker and cabinet minister for several times, escaped many assassination attempts. In 1985, when he was chief minister, his convoy was attacked by rebels. Four of his bodyguards were killed and several injured.
“I am thankful to Jayaprakash Narayan for having faith in me to contest the first Lok Sabha elections from Manipur Outer parliamentary constituency on an Indian Socialist Party ticket in 1952,” Keishing said, recalling how India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had asked him to join the Congress after the 1962 Chinese invasion of what was then the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), now Arunachal Pradesh. Since then, he has remained a Congressman – itself a record of sorts.
“I am glad that I have worked with Pandit Nehru, Indira (Gandhi), Rajiv (Gandhi) and now with Sonia Gandhi. Indira and Rajiv were great human beings who were concerned for the common people. Similarly, I see that Sonia and Rahul too are following their footsteps and have announced several development schemes which are in the interest of the common people,” the school teacher-turned-politician said.