94-year-old Rishang Keishing retires after 7 decades in politics

It was close to 5p.m. The sun had started setting and in an hour, there would be darkness all around. A man stood silently, taking in the surroundings of a place he had been a part of, on and off, since 1952. A place he said he would never come back to.

Rishang Keishing, 94, India’s oldest parliamentarian, has called it a day. There was no farewell handshake from his fellow MPs from the Rajya Sabha, the chairperson or other employees although everybody knew that they would perhaps not see him again. He boarded his waiting car and silently left for his residence on Wednesday.

Mr. Keishing has had a chequered political career, getting elected four times to Parliament, twice to the Rajya Sabha. A heavyweight in Manipur politics, he worked and manoeuvred his way to become the Chief Minister four times though he could not complete any of them, as in those days there was no anti-defection law and MLAs used to change parties for loaves and fishes.

Mr. Keishing has worked with leaders who grace the pantheon of India’s contemporary political history, starting with Nehru. He cherishes their memory and respects every one for all that he has learnt from them. Though he started his political career as a socialist, he joined the Congress in 1964. In 1972, the United Naga Integration Council, which he floated, merged with the Congress on the ground that the “Congress has no objection to the Naga integration movement.”

But life has not been all rosy. Many were against the movement for the vivisection of Manipur on tribal lines that he was part of. Mr. Keishing’s critics said Manipur, with its 2,000 years of written history, could not be divided to appease some sections. When pressed for a comment, Mr. Keishing told The Hindu: “ It was long time back, I do not remember much.”

He continues to guide the NGO he started for the development of the tribal areas.