There was a time, not too long ago, when it was standard procedure in newspapers to ask the wives of India’s finance ministers what they thought should be the salient features of the impending budget. There were always innocuous suggestions, such as lowering the price of cooking gas, raising the demand for gold, with a quiet word of praise for the hubby.
This Budget season, Midday, a tabloid not known for its searing insights into the national economy, carried an open letter to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee from his daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee before Budget day. Times have changed. So, instead of only spousal suggestions, we also got to see filial demands.
Apart from complaining about being “silenced by your steely glance”, Ms Mukherjee suggested that the tax for performing artistes on the income from their performances be lifted. “This,” Mr Mukherjee’s dancer-daughter argued, “would keep us more focused on our art and not waste time raking our (mostly) financially-challenged brains trying to understand various tax-saving schemes”. Continuing on a light vein, she asked for a “very special tax incentive for my friends who refuse to come for dinner when I cook”. Then came the disarming clincher: Ms Mukherjee’s request for “heavy taxation” on herself and a friend “for every ounce of extra fat we have”.
Replying in the same jocular manner, Father Dear wrote an open letter countering most of Ms Mukherjee’s suggestions/demands. Our take? There’s nothing like a mirthful filial exchange between a senior minister and his daughter to make us realise that our politicians are sparky humans too. We can only hope that Mr Mukherjee’s colleagues in the Congress and in the government follow suit. “Dear Mama...” could be a suitable beginning from a Congressman.