When the Finance Minister rises to make the Budget speech each year, we are all at the edge of our seats bracing for the blow below our already tightened belts. But when this knock-out punch in the form of no further tax relief is delivered in a soliloquy peppered with that most dreaded of political indulgences, the Quip, we are doubly shattered. This year round we were spared the usual quips and quotes apart from an elliptical allusion to Palaniappan Chidambaram being a ‘lucky Finance Minister’ — or was it lucky for the country? Oh never mind.
In their bid to bring in a touch of the lighthearted to rambling budget speeches, successive FMs have resorted to that even more feared weapon, the Quote. We have had Mr Chidambaram long enough to know where the quote will come from. He is not averse to Dickens, even Thoreau. But if a quote in his speech two years ago from Swami Vivekananda (‘We reap what we sow/We are the makers of our own fate’) was meant to cheer us up, clearly the FM is on a different wavelength from us. But the sure shot rabbit from the ministerial hat is from the Tamil saint, Tiruvalluvar. Pardon us for not falling about in the aisles but “the world is his who does his job with compassion” or “health, wealth, produce, the happiness that is the result and security/ These five, the learned say, are the ornaments of a polity” don’t fill our hearts with mirth.
This brings us to the moot point. If the Budget is all about getting on with business, why waste time with quips’n’quotes? Leave those things to Lalu Yadav who is able to elevate even the most prosaic statement to humour. In any case, we know who’s having the last laugh.