Rishang turns to ‘green’ power at 95
[dropcap]V[/dropcap]eteran Congress politician, Rishang Keishing, a Tangkhul Naga has decided to call it a day after 70 years in politics. Born in 1920, he is currently a Member of Parliament representing Manipur in the Rajya Sabha. This is his second tenure in the same capacity and which will expire in April this year. India’s oldest parliamentarian at 94 years, he is thought to be the oldest MP in the world.
Rishang’s political career began when he participated in the Indian Freedom Struggle during 1945-47. In 1952, he was among the youngest MPs elected to India’s first Lok Sabha on the Socialist Party of India ticket. He was also elected to the Lok Sabha for a second time on the Congress ticket after a decade when he joined the Congress in 1962. He has served as Manipur’s Chief Minister for a record four tenures.Rishang’s ascendancy to the Chief Minister’s chair was facilitated by senior Meitei politicians when the majority electorate was beginning to get disenchanted with the Congress leadership. That a Naga Chief Minister could rule the Meitei dominated Manipur is in itself a remarkable achievement. At the same time critics hold the view that it was this fact that came in the way of his acceptability amongst the Nagas occupying the hills.
This perhaps partly explains why as Chief Minister several times over Rishang from the hills has been unable to bridge the divide between the majority Meteis who inhabit the Manipur valley and the Nagas who occupy the hills.
Rishang hails from Bungpa village, Ukhrul District, Manipur. He belongs to the Tangkhul Naga tribe. Undoubtedly, Rishang has put the name of his village and tribe on the country’s political map with his long political career. In a similar manner albeit at the other end of the spectrum, his tribesman Thuingaleng Muivah, also a Tangkhul from Somdal village in Ukhrul district is the General Secretary of the NSCN (IM). It is the NSCN (IM) which has been holding talks with the Government of India on the Naga political issue, under a ceasefire that was brokered in 1997. As a leader, Rishang has done much for the development of the hill areas which are inhabited by various non-Meitei communities covering almost 70% of the land area while the majority community comprising about 70% of the State’s population occupies 30% of the land area. This has always been the bone of contention between the majority community and the several minority communities in the politically beleaguered State which also suffers from its own share of home grown militancy numbering about 27 militant groups whose agendas vary according to statehood, district or outright independence.
Prior to his political career, Rishang has been distinguished by his participation in various capacities. For instance, he was part of the Indian delegation led by late Y.B.Chavan to the 35th General Session of the U.N. held in U.S.A. in 1975. He was a member of the Indian delegation to attend the 51st Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference held at Sheraton, Fiji, 2005 and the Tenth Finance Commission;
The nonagenarian politician, a former teacher, has finally decided to retire from active politics and return to his first love, gardening.
However, he reportedly admits that it will be hard to detach himself completely from the world of politics.
His decision to stay away from electoral politics is good news for his family, particularly his wife Khatingla, who been through some very difficult times with Mr Keishing, including assassination attempts when he was Chief Minister. In fact, as Chief Minister he survived an attack on his convoy in 1985 when four of his escorts were killed and several injured. Understandably, his wife, Khatingla Keishing is happy and feels he should retire fully and get some rest now—after a chequered political career.