As Budget speeches go, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's address on Tuesday had almost no reference to any poll-bound States and appeared to be a broad strokes oration on the government's economic interventions without populist announcements.
Delivered from a lectern in the second row of the treasury benches, unusual for finance ministers who are frontbenchers even on non-Budget days, the speech was without the usual flourishes that elicit thumping from the treasury benches, the special allocations, some references to particular States.
This perhaps prompted BJP chief whip in the Lok Sabha Rakesh Singh to make a quickround of the treasury benches, especially the backbenchers to rouse the rank and file. Most took a cue from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who enthusiastically thumped the desk in appreciation over many of the announcements.
This was a speech where the word “tax” was mentioned 46 times, “Digital/Online” 28 times, “States” and “manufacturing” 20 times, “growth” 19 times, and “investment” 18 times. These words were the top mentions, a true mirror of the Budget speech.
High degree of decorum
While there were some comments made through the speech, especially by Trinamool Congress’s Saugata Roy and DMK’s Dayanidhi Maran, it was a speech that otherwise was heard out with a high degree of decorum in the Lok Sabha.
Perhaps to make up the political/electoral quotient that was lacking in the speech, the Prime Minister, unusually, took a round of the Opposition benches after the Lok Sabha adjourned, at the conclusion of the Budget speech. He greeted Opposition members (Congress MP Rahul Gandhi had left the House by then) and was especially warm towards Trinamool Congress’s Sudeip Bandopadhyaya and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) leader N.K. Premachandran. He also enquired about the health of National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah.
The meet and greet was the last act of Tuesday's Budget day in the Lower House, a rare day for parliamentary passion play, in the midst of hard-fought Assembly elections.