Ever since independent India’s first Finance Minister, RK Shanmukham Chetty, presented the first Budget on November 26, 1947, the whole nation waits with bated breath and puckered pockets to hear the Finance Minister drone on about how he intends to spend our money and take a cut in the coming year.
Considering that the Budget speech every February 28 — or February 29, if it is a leap year — was advanced from 5 pm (to comply with the British Raj tradition of being in sync with a more comfortable midday timing for London) to 11 am since 1999, the wait has been less severe. But that has not dampened the excitement that comes when one follows Part A and Part B of the Budget with rapt attention. Office-goers stop doodling on their office stationery, housewives halt any pending housework, children stop playing and bawling — why even politicians stop doing whatever they do during the rest of the year to hear the extremely informative and witty comments that the Finance Minister has to make. If Oscar nights are exciting, and the last overs of a one-day international can be nail-biting, Budget mornings leave us completely glued to our television channels quivering with untrammelled delight.
Part A of the Budget Speech — that deals with the general economic survey of the country — is the appetiser and main course rolled into one. Part B, dealing with taxation proposals, is the dessert buffet. Much more than Diwali or New Year, the Budget is the apogee of our cultural — not to mention our socio-economic — life. It will be only a few hours from now that you will be celebrating Union Budget 2007-08 with full fanfare. We know you are dying to follow every word — and shloka — that Mr Chidambaram will utter in the all-too-few hours in Parliament today. Be patient.