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Nirmala Sitharaman will present her first budget on Friday, becoming the first full-time woman finance minister to announce India’s annual accounts. This will be the 89th Union budget, including interim ones. Mint takes a look at the personalities and their imprints on the budget.
The first budget was an interim one
The first Union budget of independent India covered a period of seven-and-a-half months from 15 August 1947 to 31 March 1948. A budget for the year had been passed in March but it ceased to be operative due to the division of the country into India and Pakistan. Although it could authorize the expenditure necessary for the rest of the fiscal year without presenting a new budget, the government felt it would be the wish of the people of independent India that a fresh account was presented. The FM at the time, R. K. Shanmukham Chetty, presented the first Union budget on 26 November 1947.
The long and short of budget speeches
The longest budget speech in terms of words was given by Manmohan Singh in 1991. It comprised 18,177 words. Arun Jaitley is credited with delivering the second, third and fourth longest budget speeches in 2014, 2017 and 2016, respectively. Jaswant Singh took the longest time—two hours and 13 minutes—to present his budget in 2003. H.M. Patel’s 800-word interim budget in 1977 had the shortest speech. Morarji Desai’s presentation of 10 budgets is the highest delivered by any finance minister. He is followed by P. Chidambaram, who has presented nine Union budgets.
Breaking with tradition
Before 1999, the budget was announced at 5pm on the last working day in February. This practice ended when Yashwant Sinha announced his budget at 11am. Jaitley presented the budget for 2017-18 on 1 February.
Tryst with history
T.T. Krishnamachari’s 1964-65 budget was the first notable effort to unearth hidden income. His interim and Union budgets of 1965-66 introduced the first voluntary disclosure income scheme (VDIS) against black money. The most popular VDIS came from Chidambaram’s 1997-98 “Dream Budget". Under this scheme, interest and penalty were waived and immunity was granted from any action. Singh’s 1991 budget tried to liberalize the economy, opening the government and the private sector to international competition.
Personalities and their budgets
Jawaharlal Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi presented the budget while serving as prime minister. In 1970, Indira Gandhi became the first woman finance minister to present the budget, but this was a portfolio she held in addition to being the PM. R. Venkataraman and Pranab Mukherjee are the only two FMs who went on to become the president of India. C.D. Deshmukh was the first Indian governor of the Reserve Bank of India who later became FM and presented his first budget in 1951.