Locate Manipur in India's Politics

Seram Neken *

Rishang Keishing : Chief Ministers of Manipur
Rishang Keishing : Chief Ministers of Manipur from
27 November to 1980 to 28 February 1981
19 June 1981 to 04 January 1985
04 January 1985 to 04 March 1988
14 December 1994 to 24 February 1995
25 February 1995 to 15 December 1997

"Although Manipur dominates the nation in games and sports, the state is yet to gain due importance in mainland politics. While the whole world identifies India with the rich art and cultural heritage of Manipur, national political parties of India seem to ignore the state's politicians in handling national issues. The Congress Party in Manipur has neither claimed a ministerial berth nor has it been desperate in not considering a position in the recently effected reshuffle of Manmohan Singh led Union ministry. The reach of Manipur politicians is apparently limited to this hilly state. It is now time for our politicians to widen their perspectives and endeavour to dominate national mainland politics"

Performance of the Congress Party in Manipur during the last six decades of India's republic is satisfactory enough to award a ministerial berth to its members of Parliament. The state has produced capable MPs who can become union ministers. However, none from the border state has been considered for a ministerial berth in the two editions of UPA government. Congress party has been in power in the state for the last three tenures. Out of the sixty MLAs in state legislature at present, 42 belong to the Congress party. All the three MPs of Manipur- two of Lok Sabha and one of Rajya Sabha are Congressmen who deserve to become ministers in Congress led Government of India.

The Congress Party, as per election outcome, has been maintaining its popularity in Manipur for most of the time since independence and the state's merger into the Indian Union. In the first, second, third, seventh, tenth and fourteenth Lok Sabha elections, Congress party got one seat each out of the two Lok Sabha seats of Manipur, while the party managed to get all two seats of lower house in the fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth and eleventh Lok Sabhas. Indian National Congress (INC) held the lone Rajya Sabha seat of Manipur for almost 46 years (from 1954 to 1978, from 1984 to 1990 and from 1996 to date). At present all three MPs (two in Lok Sabha and one of Rajya Sabha) belong to Indian National Congress.

Veteran Congressman Rishang Keishing is a rare personality who is politically well-acquainted and experienced. Indian National Congress might have acknowledged his contribution to Indian politics by honouring the 92-year-old Rajya Sabha member from Manipur with a ministerial berth. Keishing was a member of the first Lok Sabha and is the lone surviving leader, who continues to be a MP. The MP from Manipur initiated the discussion in the Rajya Sabha when it recently celebrated the Golden Jubilee of Indian parliament.

The veteran politician born in 1920 was elected to Parliament as a Member of First Lok Sabha in 1952-1957 and 1957-61. Rishang 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.

He was the Chief Minister of Manipur thrice, from November 1980 to February 1981, from June 1981 to 1988 and 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. Rishang is presently the Members of Committee on Food, Civil Supplies and Public Distribution; Committee on Commerce; Court of the North-Eastern Hill University; Committee on Home Affairs; Consultative Committee for the Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways and Committee on Public Undertakings.

Dr. Thokchom Meinya Singh, present MP from Inner Manipur Parliamentary constituency, is a well qualified congressman elected for two consecutive terms. A former minister in state government before election to Lok Sabha, Shri Meinya also deserves to get a ministerial berth in Union government. However, the national leaders of Congress Party seem to have neglected Manipur in considering for ministership.

The strategic position Manipur holds and unique contributions it makes in sports and arts are satisfactory enough to pay importance to this border state. Both the people's talents as well as stronghold of the Congress party have considerable contributions to India's political and cultural arena. But, it is questionable whether Manipur politicians are unfit to be union ministers? Very young and inexperienced MPs have been upgraded to ministerial positions in the last reshuffle, while veteran leaders devoted to party politics for lifetime have been neglected for unknown reasons.

Is Indian politics based on heredity? Are lifetime contributions made by experienced Manipur leaders like Rishang Keishing not counted for they are not born in Gandhi families? Is it because their fathers and fore-fathers have not been in Indian political hierarchy?

During the last 65 years of independence, Manipur's loyalty to the Congress Party has been great in contrast to states like West Bengal, which believes in communism. It is questionable why Manipur has been left out of the congress ministry? National party's neglecting Manipur will further widen the existing gap between the north easterners and the mainland Indians. Are the state leaders in Congress party complacent with the treatment meted out to them?

* Seram Neken wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition) as part of "The voiceless speaks"
This article was webcasted on November 12 2012.

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