Rishang Keishing, 91, a veteran from the first Lok Sabha and now a
member of the Rajya Sabha at his Talkatora Road residence
(Photo: Anjali Ojha/IANS)
New Delhi: The
discipline of parliament has been lost with sloganeering and noisy
scenes replacing patient debates, feels veteran parliamentarian Rishang Keishing, 91, who was a member of the first Lok Sabha and
recalls the time when parliament was like "a temple and the
speaker its priest".
As Lok Sabha completes 60 years next Sunday, May 13, Keishing,
presently a Rajya Sabha member from Manipur, remembers how
veterans waited for their turn to speak, and the decision of the
chair was considered the last word - "treated with respect".
"There is a gulf of difference in the parliament then and now. The
way things are going, discipline has been lost... It is not good
for the nation," Keishing told IANS in an interview.
Seated on a sofa in a simply decorated room at his Talkatora Road
residence, Keishing smilingly recalled the old days when
parliament was seen as a temple by parliamentarians. Adorning the
walls are some pictures, including one of his wedding, while a few
potted plants add to the calmness of the atmosphere.
"When I joined the Lok Sabha, all eminent leaders from the freedom
struggle were there...," he said, recalling the names of the first
prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, first Lok Sabha Speaker G.V.
Mavalankar, and others like Jan Sangh founder Syama Prasad
Mookerjee, N.C. Chatterjee and Acharya Kripalani and others.
"They were all great leaders...Parliament at that time was like a
temple and the speaker, with his Gandhi cap, looked like a
priest," he said.
The veteran recalled the debate when states were being formed,
citing it as an example of tolerance and discipline at that time,
which he finds missing now.
"When the states were being recognised, members could have
shouted, as happens now... After all, someone's territory was
going in some state... But they took it very calmly," he said.
"The chair's ruling was respected; the members were very clean
hearted and all had love for each other. We had come together
after a struggle... Discussions, debate and speeches were listened
to with great attention.. These things like shouting in groups,
raising slogans and marching to the well were not there," he said.
Keishing, who completed his graduation in 1949 from St. Paul's
Cathedral College in Kolkata, entered politics as a fire brand
socialist with Jaiprakash Narayan's Socialist Party and won his
first Lok Sabha seat of Outer Manipur in 1952.
He came back to the third Lok Sabha in 1962, once again from the
Socialist Party. However, when China attacked India in the same
year, he decided to join the government's side as his home state
was in risk.
"I felt at that time that I should be in government's side, so I
went to Pt. Nehru and asked him to take me in Congress, and he
agreed," recalled Keishing, adding that Nehru made him mediator
for talks with the Nagas.
Keishing, known as an articulate statesman, also served as a key
leader in the movement to get Manipur, which was a princely state,
annexed with India. He was the chief minister of Manipur thrice,
first for a brief period of less than a year from November 1980 to
February 1981, and then after a brief president's rule, from June
1981 to 1988. He was again Manipur chief minister from 1994-97.
Later, he was elected Rajya Sabha member in 2002 for the first
time, and in 2008 at the age of 88 for the second time.
Keishing, who has had a vibrant career in politics for over six
decades, recalls most fondly former prime minister Indira Gandhi
as "a woman who kept her word".
"She would always keep her word..." he says.
During the Jan Sangh government, he recalls, a false case was
levelled against Indira Gandhi in Manipur.
"She was asked to come to Imphal, and asked to stay in detention
for three days... She called me and asked me to arrange tickets,"
"There was a huge crowd in the hotel she was staying, she sent
everyone home saying she was going to be there for a few days...
Next morning, on the pretext of going for a walk, she went to the
airport... As the airplane was about to close its doors, she
pulled up her sari, and ran towards the plane and boarded it," he
recounted with a smile.
He also recalls his association with JP, and Ram Manohar Lohia,
saying "they liked me a lot".
Even at his advanced age, Keishing has 83 percent attendance in
parliament, way above the national average of 76 percent as per
information on the PRS Legislative Research website.
Asked what keeps him going, he said with a smile, "My duty for the
"I want to serve the country as long as I live," Keishing told
Parliament will hold a special sitting next Sunday to mark 60
years of the Lok Sabha.
(Anjali Ojha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)