Here’s my interview of a generally unreliable source (Gus) about what is likely to happen in Monday’s Union Budget:
Gus: The main problem with the Budget is people don’t listen to the speech. Who wants to listen to a guy drone on and on about boring stuff like the JNNURM or PMGSY and so on? All they’re bothered about is whether there’s any change in their taxes. So how do we ensure an audience for the Budget speech? After all, it’s the only speech the opposition allows us to make these days.
Me: But haven’t Budget speeches always been boring?
Gus: Oh yes. History tells us when Chanakya used to make his Budget speech the palace used to reverberate with the snores of Chandragupta Maurya and his ministers. It’s because nobody listened to him that Chanakya published his collected speeches in a book called Arthashastra.
Me: That’s a famous book.
Gus: Tragically, nobody read that either.
Me: So what’s the plan?
Gus: It’s time to start making powerpoint presentations instead, with charts and colours.
Me: But even they can be deadly dull.
Gus: That’s why we need to jazz it up. We’ve been thinking of adding background music, like in the movies. So when the finance minister talks about slashing the fiscal deficit, we could add scary background music from ‘Psycho’ or ‘Night of the Living Dead.’
Me: We could play Beethoven’s Ode to Joy when there’s a tax cut.
Gus: Bollywood is a better bet. When the finance minister talks of raising taxes, the background song could be ‘Dhan te nan,’ from Kaminey. Or if the excise duty on, say bangles, is raised, we could have ‘Chittiya Kalaiyan Ve’. We could also have short film clips, such as the iconic scene of Nargis pulling the plough when talking of agriculture.
Me: Could you show clips of Nargis Fakhri too?
Gus: Sure, sure.
Me: What about cheerleaders?
Gus: We debated about cheerleaders and item numbers, but felt they would be frivolous. We thought about using business jokes, but decided the Budget projections were anyway funny enough.
Me: You could do catchy slogans. Like FD2DF — fiscal deficit to development finance.
Gus: Must use that. We wanted to say this Budget is all about the 4Gs — Giant Growth Generating…umm….
Me: Graphs, Groans, Goats, Goals?
Gus: Thanks, Giant Growth Generating Goals. Now all we need are some good fiction writers.
Me: But the big question remains — how are you going to find the money for the Pay Commission award, one rank one pension and recapitalising the banks without increasing taxes?
Gus: Don’t worry, we have a fantastic plan, one that will kill two birds with one stone. We’ll not only get the fiscal deficit down, we’ll also get rid of a lot of anti-nationals. All we have to do is sell JNU.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed are personal