India’s ninth budget on that extra day of leap year

February 26th, 2008 - 1:07 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Arvind Padmanabhan
New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) When Finance Minister P. Chidambaram presents the union budget Feb 29 it will only be the ninth time in India’s independent history that the full annual statement of accounts is tabled on the last day of February in a leap year. Morarji Desai, who was also born Feb 29, had the distinction of not only tabling two full national budgets that day (on Feb 29 in 1960 and 1968) but of also presenting the most number of eight union budgets.

In the immediate past, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yashwant Sinha in 2000 and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as finance minister in 1992, apart from late N.D. Tiwari in 1988, were among those to present annual budgets Feb 29.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee as finance minister in then prime minister Indira Gandhi’s cabinet in 1984 also presented a full national budget, as opposed to an interim one, on Feb 29.

The other two occasions were in 1964 by finance minister T.T. Krishnamachari and 1956 by C.D. Deshmukh. In 1952, Deshmukh presented a budget Feb 29 but it was an interim one. He went on to present the full budget a few moths later on May 23.

Interestingly, in 1948, when India’s second budget as an independent nation was tabled by R.K. Shanmukham Chetty, the date of the presentation was Feb 28, even though it was a leap year and the budget was not an interim one.

This was because Feb 29 that year happened to be a Sunday.

In some of the other leap years, the budgets were never presented Feb 29, mostly because governments were in transition and the finance ministers of the day were obliged to table only vote on accounts and interim budgets.

In recent memory, some leap year interim budgets were presented by Jaswant Singh for the National Democratic Alliance government on Feb 3, 2004, and by Mammohan Singh for the Congress government on Feb 28, 1996.

Turning to Chidambaram, he will be the second finance minister, or a person with the finance portfolio, to present as many as seven budgets. Only Morarji Desai tabled more national budgets than him, with eight.

Deshmukh was next with six full budgets to his credit, followed by five each for Manmohan Singh and Yashwant Sinha.

In 1996, when Chidambaram presented his first regular budget on July 22, the interim budget for that year had been tabled by Manmohan Singh.

Going by the fact that the United Progressive Alliance government’s tenure ends May 21, 2009, the incumbent finance minister has another chance to present a budget next year. But given that it will be an election year, he may have to settle for an interim one.

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