The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Can’t stand this long a speech
- Cramp forces Shekhawat to cut short 24-page translation

New Delhi, Feb. 17: Long speeches in Parliament have often left listeners numb. Today, the sufferer was at the wrong end of the microphone.

Cramps forced Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat to cut short a ritual of reading out the Hindi translation of the President’s address, which ran into 24 pages packing 79 paragraphs.

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had taken more than an hour for his speech at the joint sitting of Parliament at the opening of the budget session. Shekhawat then came to the podium to read out the translation. It is customary for the Vice-President to do so, but Shekhawat has already had two heart surgeries.

The octogenarian seemed a bit unsteady on his feet after ploughing through the translation for more than an hour. Alarmed by his sweating and stagger, security personnel hovering about helped him to a nearby chair. Kalam stepped in, saying the rest of the speech should be taken as read.

All of a sudden, the Central Hall came alive in a flurry of activity. Union minister C.P. Thakur, a general physician, accompanied by parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, attended to the Vice-President. But the discomfort did not stop Shekhawat from standing up to honour the national anthem at the end of the session. The gesture received a thunderous ovation.

Soon after, Shekhawat claimed he was fine. “One of my legs is shorter and to make up for that I put extra leather in one shoe — the reason I sometimes develop cramps in one leg,” he said.

He was later taken out of the Central Hall in a wheelchair and examined in his office. His pulse rate and blood pressure were found to be normal. “It is a simple case of a cramp in the right leg,” Shekhawat said. He refused to take the wheelchair to the door of the Rajya Sabha.

Later, at a book release function, Shekhawat said there was no reason to worry. “In Parliament, I was a little unwell which was highlighted by (the) media in such a way that it put me in difficulty as family members and close relatives started pouring in here in cars or even by aeroplanes.

“I thought it fit to attend this book release function and communicate that there is no reason for concern,” he said.

The incident, however, prompted Swaraj to suggest that an all-party meeting be called to do away with the custom. Instead, there could be simultaneous translation, she suggested.

How about shorter speeches'

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