July 5, 2019

New Delhi: The Maiden Budget of the Narendra Modi Government in the second tenure was presented in the Lok Sabha this morning. It was Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s first Budget and also the second fiscal proposals of a financial year by any woman Finance Minister. Indira Gandhi has been the only woman to have presented Budget for fiscal 1970-71.

The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had taken over the Finance portfolio following resignation of Morarji Desai as the Finance Minister. Sitharaman also perhaps holds a unique experience of directly dealing three core sectors of economy and budget-making — the Commerce, the Industry and the Defence in her first term in the Union Council of Ministers under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In 2014, Sitharaman was inducted as Commerce Minister and later in 2017 she was elevated as Defence Minister. Understandably, the priority before the Finance Minister is to focus on growth and finding new avenues for the same as it is also high time to appreciate the challenge of slowdown in real term basis.

Before being the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman has held a wide range of jobs: She rode aboard a fighter jet as Defence Minister. As head of Trade Ministry, she grappled with falling exports. She’s been a National Spokeswoman for her Party.

The ad-hoc Budget presented in February by Piyush Goyal, who held the portfolio during the illness of Arun Jaitley, was generally given away as a self-congratulatory one and an election speech for the incumbent Government.

Before presenting the budget, Nirmala Sitharaman called on President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. She was joined by Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur.  Ahead of presenting the Budget, a Union Cabinet meeting was also held. 

The momentous occasion was witnessed by Finance Minister’s parents Savitri and Narayanan and daughter Vangmayi Parkala who were witnessing the proceedings from the VIP gallery. Before standing up to read the Budget speech, Sitharaman folded hands towards the direction of her parents as her father quietly acknowledged the gesture.

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In her speech, Nirmala unveiled an elaborate plan for investment driven growth and announced a new payment platform for the MSMEs to give it the vital confidence.

Sitharaman, an alumnus of the capital’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University, read out an Urdu couplet and referred to a quote by Chanakya, the ancient India’s philosopher and economist, which led to thumping of desks. She said by the year 2022, the Government will ensure electricity and cooking gas for all but hastened to add except for those who are not willing to take the connections.

Sitharaman emphasised that poor and farmers will continue to get focused attention by the Government. In the packed House, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah and Nitin Gadkari were seated in the front row. In the opposition benches, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, son Rahul and Dr. Farooq Abdullah of National Conference were present.

The Finance Minister said the Government will make India further attractive for foreign investment and sectors like aviation, media and insurance sectors would be opened amid repeated thumping of desks by treasury bench members. Thanking voters for bringing back the Modi Government to power for a second term, Sitharaman said, “The recent election was charged with brimming home and desire for a bright and stable ‘New India’. Voter turnout was highest; every section came to stamp their approval for performing Government”. 


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