Rishang Keishing (93), four-time Chief Minister of Manipur and now the oldest member in the Rajya Sabha, is not fighting the elections, but son Victor is contesting from Phungyar in the hill district of Ukhrul. Like other Congress candidates he had to file his nomination papers in Imphal because of the threat from CorCom. But Keishing confidently told Iboyaima Laithangbam that the Congress would secure a majority in the January 28 polls.
What have you to say about the threats to the Congress candidates and their supporters from CorCom, the strike force of seven extremist organisations?
It is not from CorCom alone. Some tribal outfits have also targeted the Congress. Several political parties, extremist groups and the Nagaland government are making a wolf-pack attack on us. With the unflinching support of the people, the party shall overcome.
Do you feel your party will not fare well because of these threats?
No. We will secure majority. There were such threats in the past. I myself escaped an assassination attempt in Leishi village when I was the Chief Minister.
What is your comment on the fielding of 12 candidates by the Naga People's Front, the ruling party in Nagaland?
I do not know why the NPF and leaders of the Nagaland government are disturbing us in this manner. At the most this party will win three seats. The NSCN(IM) is holding talks with the Indian government, with the unification of the Naga areas being top on the agenda. All of us should wait for the outcome. There is no need for this indecent hurry and put the cart before the horse.
As the senior most Congress leader, are you satisfied with the performances of the Congress Ministry in the past two consecutive terms?
There are some grey areas. In my time the state got just Rs. 200 crore as the annual fund allocation, whereas today it is Rs. 1,000 crore. There should be judicious utilisation of the fund. I could not go to some remote areas since there are no proper roads. Corruption should not be institutionalised. Politicians of many hues and extremists have been extorting money and victimising the people. With the passing of the Lok Ayukta bill, I hope corruption will be checked in Manipur.
What do you think of the armed movement?
The armed persons and those who are close to them have become richer, while the common people have become poorer. Their slogan of staying out of India is a pipe dream. Instead they should reorient to stay within India. We should shun senseless violence. I do not see any reason why they should target the Congress.
Has the Congress delivered the goods to the people?
It is a party which has done so many things for the country. This time the people should elect men of integrity who understand the sentiments and aspirations of the people of the valley and the hills to bring about an emotional integration among the people.