‘Back Then, Everyone Respected Each Other’

India’s oldest parliamentarian retires April 9, six decades after he stepped into the first Lok Sabha in 1952
Bullu Raj

Six decades after he stepped into the first Lok Sabha in 1952, India’s oldest parliamentarian Rishang Keishing, currently a Congress member of the Rajya Sabha from Manipur, will be taking the final bow on April 9. Excerpts from an interview with the 95-year-old, whose ageing but still graceful voice made it through despite the poor connection with Imphal:

Who do you think has been the best PM?

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Well, I don’t think there has been any PM better than Pandit Nehru. He tried to accommodate all through justice. Whether he actu­ally could or not, that is different, but he had the idea that all people should come together and dream of life as Indian nationals. And in those days, it was his personal approach and touch to the Northeast that brought all of us together. On the other hand, in terms of efficacy and taking decisions, I don’t think there has been anyone better than Indira Gandhi.

And the best speaker?

Ganesh Vasudev Mavlankar, who was the first speaker of the Lok Sabha. Not only was he a good orator, he was also respected and obeyed by all. This helped him maintain order. Other than him, Sardar Hukam Singh also managed to control the House with his good nature.

What has been the most memorable moment of your Parliament tenure?

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I fondly remember how earlier members from the ruling and Opposition parties respected each other. When those from the ruling party spoke, the other side would listen attentively. The Opposition members would then have a good response. This is unlike today, when members are more interested in disturbing the proceedings, wasting precious time.

And the saddest?

The recent session with its repeated adjournments and violence. It defeats the very purpose for which we were elected.

What do you think of Rahul Gandhi and the other younger MPs you have seen?

I appreciate Rahul’s intentions, the way he speaks and his stand against corruption. Others like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot appear clean and honest and I appreciate that too.

Are you expecting a farewell?

No, but I’ll be in Delhi before April 9, when I retire, to meet different leaders, including even those from the Opposition, to say goodbye. However, I’ll continue to use the last few years too for public service by writing to various ministries for the development of my state.

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What is your position on the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act?

I feel it is time we remove this Act and focus on maintaining law and order effectively. AFSPA has created more problems and enmity and it has become more difficult to work with the people. I favour that a dialogue be made more fruitful within the framework of the Constitution. I even propose that those arres­ted should be released as a goodwill gesture. This is something that I have said openly.

Long View From Imphal All Along The Waterfront
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