Union Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, as well as the Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur and Secretary, Finance & Financial Services, Rajiv Kumar addressing a Post Budget Press Conference, in New Delhi
By Neeraj Mahajan
Guess what do Jawaharlal Nehru the first Prime Minister of India, Liaquat Ali Khan the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Indira Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Rajiv Gandhi, V. P. Singh, Morarji Desai, I. K. Gujral, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and Chaudhary Charan Singh have in common? Well, all ten of them stepped into the Finance Minister’s shoes to present the prestigious annual budget in the parliament as the existing or future Prime Ministers.
Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi presented the Union Budget while holding the dual charge as Prime Minister and Finance Minister. Rajiv Gandhi presented the Union budget for 1987-89 after V. P. Singh resigned as Finance Minister and went on to float Jan Morcha. Another Prime Minister in the making Dr. Manmohan Singh presented the interim budget for 1991-92 and the regular budget for 1992–93 to encourage foreign investments and reduce import duty from 300 to 50 percent.
R Venkataraman and Pranab Mukherjee – happen to be the only two finance ministers to become the President of India.
The 29 Finance Minister’s so far include Nirmala Sitharaman, Arun Jaitley, P. Chidambaram, Pranab Mukherjee, Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Madhu Dandavate, S.B. Chavan, N.D. Tiwari, Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh, R. Venkataraman, H.N. Bahuguna, Charan Singh, Haribhai M. Patel, C. Subramanian, Y.B. Chavan, Indira Gandhi, Morarji R. Desai, Sachindra Chaudhuri, T.T. Krishnamachari, Morarji R. Desai, Jawahar Lal Nehru, T.T. Krishnamachari, Dr. C.D. Deshmukh, Dr. John Mathai, R.K. Shanmukham Chetty and Liaquat Ali Khan.
Out of this lot Kshitish Chandra Neogy and H. N. Bahuguna came like a breeze and left like a storm within days or months -without making an impact on the Indian economy or presenting a single Budget.
India’s first Finance Minister R. K. Shanmukham Chetty presented the first budget of independent India on 26 November 1947. Nirmala Sitharaman is the second woman to do so after Indira Gandhi, who presented the Budget for 1970-71 as the Prime Minister and Finance Ministers at the same time. Nirmala Sitharaman, however, happens to be the first and only full-time female Finance Minister of independent India. She presented the budget for 2019–2020 on 1 February 2020 and for 2019–2020 on 5 July 2019.
Before her Arun Jaitley presented five Union Budgets — for 2018–2019 on 1 February 2018, for 2017–2018 on 1 February 2017, for 2016–2017 on 29 February 2016, for 2015–2016 on 28 February 2015, and for 2014–2015 on 10 July 2014.
Morarji Desai –holds the record for presenting the maximum number of budgets in his two terms- much more than anyone else. He was the only finance minister to present the budget on his birthdays in 1964 and 1968 and happens to be the second Deputy Prime Minister, and first non-Congress Prime Minister to present ten (eight annual and two interim) budgets. Other FMs including P Chidambaram presented nine, Pranab Mukherjee eight, Yashwant Sinha, Yashwantrao Chavan, and C.D. Deshmukh seven – followed by Manmohan Singh and T.T. Krishnamachari who presented six budgets each.
Morarji Desai was honored by Bharat Ratna – the highest civilian award in India and Nishan-e-Pakistan the highest civilian award of Pakistan. He also happens to be the oldest person in the history of Indian politics to hold the office of prime minister till the age of 84. After his departure from Indira Gandhi cabinet, Indira Gandhi became the first and, the only female PM to assume charge as the first woman Finance Minister for one year and went about nationalizing top 14 banks by issuing an ordinance on a Saturday evening.
Safe Custody: The General Budget documents 2020-21 being kept under tight security at the Parliament House in New Delhi
Pranab Mukherjee is the first Rajya Sabha member to present seven annual budgets as the Finance Minister for financial years 1982-83, 1983–84, 1984-85 and 2012–2013 on 16 March 2012. Jaswant Singh delivered the longest Budget speech in 2003
The 1997-98 budget drafted by Chidambaram and finally presented by I. K. Gujral was passed without debate at a special session of Parliament.
Until late 1900, the Union Budget used to be tabled in the parliament at 5:00 pm on the last working day i.e. 28th Feb – a practice inherited from the British Colonialists. Another reason behind this practice was that in those days most budgets ended up raising the taxes— hence presenting the budget in the evening gave enough time to the stakeholders to figure out the changes over night. Yashwant Sinha the Finance Minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s BJP government changed the ritual by introducing the 1999 Budget at 11 am.
Subsequently, Arun Jaitley, the Finance Minister in Narendra Modi’s government broke the tradition of presenting the Budget on the last working day and presented the budget on 1 February in 2016. Even the Rail Budget, which used to be presented separately for 92 Years was clubbed with the union budget.
Nirmala Sitharaman, broke another tradition by carrying a Bahikhata instead of leather briefcase – a practice being followed since the days of India’s first Finance minister Shanmukham Chetty.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur entering the Parliament House to present the General Budget
The ritual of printing the voluminous budget documents at a printing press in the basement of North Block starts roughly a week before its presentation in the Parliament. This is preceded by a customary ceremony in which halwa is prepared and distributed among the officers and staff who stay virtually locked up in the North Block without any physical or telephonic contact with their near and dear ones, media and anyone else in the outside world till the Budget is tabled in the parliament. This is to ensure secrecy and avoid the inside information being leaked to the interested parties to accordingly buy or sell their stock and shares in advance.
Besides the Finance Minister, the key officials including the Finance Secretary, Revenue Secretary, Banking Secretary, and Secretary Department of Investment and Public Asset Management DIPAM – and other senior officials are not allowed to enter the printing press without special security pass and have to follow strict protocol on need to know basis.
Finance Ministers and Prime Ministers of India since independence
||2019- till now
||Atal Bihari Vajpayee
||H. D. Deve Gowda
||I. K. Gujral
||Atal Bihari Vajpayee
||Dr. Manmohan Singh
||P. V. Narasimha Rao
||V. P. Singh
||Rajiv Gandhi, P.M.
||Charan Singh, Dy. P.M.
||Haribhai M. Patel
||Indira Gandhi, P.M.
||Morarji R. Desai, Dy. P.M.
||Indira GandhiLal Bahadur Shastri
||Lal Bahadur Shastri Jawaharlal Nehru
||Morarji R. Desai
||Jawahar Lal Nehru, P.M.
||Dr. C.D. Deshmukh
||Dr. John Mathai
||R.K. Shanmukham Chetty
||Liaquat Ali Khan