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22 Jun 2018

No lip service: CM in speech marathon.... Chamling addresses gathering in pakyong for 3 hours, 52 minutes

Chamling speaks at the meeting in Pakyong on Wednesday 
Rajeev Ravidas, TT, Jun 22, 2018, Gangtok: Pawan Chamling recently broke Jyoti Basu's record to become India's longest-serving chief minister. On Wednesday, the Sikkim leader became one of the "longest-speaking", addressing a public meeting for nearly four hours.

The 67-year-old Chamling was seen sipping water only once and stood at the lectern without any break during his address of three hours and 52 minutes at the rally in Pakyong, 30km from Gangtok.

Such a long speech, in front of over 3,000 people, may surprise many as leaders try to wrap up their addresses within half an hour or so.

Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee doesn't generally stretch it beyond 40 minutes. Her predecessors Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Basu would speak for 20-25 minutes at the most.

Chamling, however, has a history of delivering long speeches. On Tuesday, he had held forth for almost a similar length of time at another rally in Sikkim's Rongli.

"He has been doing this for years now," said a senior journalist who has been covering the Sikkim chief minister since the time he formed the Sikkim Democratic Party in 1993.

Chamling came to power in December 1994, nearly a quarter-century ago. Basu was Bengal chief minister for a little over 23 years.

Chamling's mentor-turned-foe Nar Bahadur Bhandari is believed to have delivered the longest speech in Sikkim - which reportedly lasted for seven hours.

As India's representative to the United Nations, V.K. Krishna Menon had delivered an unprecedented eight-hour speech, defending New Delhi's stand on Kashmir, on January 23, 1957.

Some socialist leaders were also known for such feats. Cuban President Fidel Castro spoke for seven hours, while his next-generation protégé and Venezuela President Hugo Chavez did so for eight hours.

Those milestones do not muffle Chamling's "speakathon", even though the weather in Sikkim may be much cooler.

"He (Chamling) doesn't gesture or shout during his speech.... At times, he shakes his arms with clenched fists to stress a point," said a journalist.

But what did the Sikkim chief minister talk about for so long? A major part of the speech revolved around his commitment to create more jobs in Sikkim.

He also took potshots at the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM), the main Opposition party, for promising to provide jobs to all state youths within 100 days of coming to power. He took a dig at footballer-turned-politician Bhaichung Bhutia.

"Most agree his long speeches can become a torture at times. But no one seems to have been able to convey this to the chief minister," said a source in Gangtok. According to the source, some listeners betray their impatience, some walk out for a break and do not return, while others start having conversations among themselves.

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