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Budget 2024: 5 lesser-known facts about the Union Budget

FM Sitharaman is scheduled to present the Interim Budget on February 1, 2024, shortly before the Lok Sabha elections. Here's a close look at some lesser-known facts about the Union Budget

The upcoming Interim Budget for the financial year 2024-25, set to be presented on February 1, 2024, holds significance as it marks the last final Budget presentation of the second term of the Modi government.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is poised to deliver her sixth consecutive Budget since 2019. This places her among a select group of finance ministers, who presented at least five consecutive Union Budgets, including notable figures such as Morarji Desai, Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram, Yashwant Sinha, and Arun Jaitley.

The tradition of presenting Budgets in India traces its roots to the inaugural Budget introduced by James Wilson, a Scottish economist and politician, on April 7, 1860, during the rule of the East India Company. Post-independence, the first Budget was presented on November 26, 1947, by then finance minister RK Shanmukham Chetty. Since Independence, the country has witnessed 75 annual Budgets, accompanied by 14 interim budgets and four special Budgets.

(1) The longest and shortest speeches in history

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who has presented the Union Budget four times, holds the record for delivering the longest speech during the presentation of the 2020-21 Union Budget on February 1, 2020. She spoke for two hours and 42 minutes, but due to time constraints and with two pages remaining, she had to cut her speech short.

Hirubhai Mulljibhai Patel presented the shortest Budget in India in 1977, where he spoke just 800 words. Serving as the finance minister from 1977 to 1979 under the Morarji Desai-led government, Patel's concise presentation was notably brief compared to the typically more extended Union Budget speeches in the country's history.

(2) Longest speeches by word count

In 1991, the then finance minister Manmohan Singh, who served under the Narasimha Rao government, delivered the longest Budget speech in terms of words, amounting to a total of 18,650 words. Following him on the list is Arun Jaitley, who presented a Budget speech in 2018 comprising 18,604 words. Jaitley took one hour and 49 minutes to complete his extensive speech during that session.

(3) Budget presentation by PM

While it is traditionally the responsibility of the finance minister to present the Union Budget in India, there have been instances when the prime minister took on this role. The presentation of the Budget by the prime minister has occurred in unique circumstances, often in times of significant political or economic importance.

Jawaharlal Nehru was the first prime minister to do so in 1958. This occurred when then-Finance Minister TT Krishnamachari resigned due to his alleged involvement in the Haridas Mundhra controversy, compelling Nehru to present the Union Budget.

In subsequent instances, PM Indira Gandhi presented the Budget in 1970 after finance minister Morarji Desai resigned in protest of the nationalisation of 14 Indian private banks without consulting him. Additionally, in the fiscal year 1987-88, PM Rajiv Gandhi presented the Budget when VP Singh resigned as finance minister. These occurrences underline the exceptional circumstances under which PMs have taken on the task of presenting the Union Budget.

(4) Who presented most number of budgets in India?

Morarji Desai holds the record for presenting the highest number of Union Budgets in Parliament by a single finance minister, having presented a total of 10 budgets.

Desai presented the annual budget every year from 1959 to 1963. He had a second stint as FM from 1967 to 1969. Additionally, he also presented the Interim Budget for the fiscal years 1962-63 and 1967-68.

Desai is followed by P Chidambaram with 9 Budgets, Pranab Mukherjee with 8, Yashwant Sinha with 8 and former PM Manmohan Singh with 6.

(5) Why was Railway Budget merged with the Union Budget?

In 2017, a significant change occurred when the Rail Budget was merged with the Union Budget. Moreover, since that year, the Budget has been presented on February 1, according to changes introduced by the then finance minister Arun Jaitley.

The recommendation to do away with the practice of a separate Railway Budget and merge it with the Union Budget was submitted in the form of a white paper by the Niti Aayog. The recommendation was presented to then Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. In response, Prabhu wrote a letter to the then FM Jaitley, urging the merger of the Railway and Union Budgets. The intent behind this proposal was to streamline the budgetary process, enhance efficiency, and promote the overall welfare of the Railways and the Indian economy.

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