The Union Budget is one of the key annual events in India’s executive calendar. And just like any other important occasion, this one too has its own idiosyncrasies. One of the most discussed topics about the Budget -- thrust into the limelight in the recent past by Nirmala Sitharaman's singular bahi khata -- is how Finance Ministers carry their documents to Parliament to present their Budget speech.
Till very recently, it was traditional for Indian Finance Ministers to carry their speech papers in a briefcase. Each Finance Minister had their own briefcase in which they would carry their papers.
This practice had been carried over from the British tradition of the ‘red box.’ In the UK, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the British FM) carried their budget papers in a ‘red box.’ The tradition was started by William Ewart Gladstone in 1860, whose speeches ran so long that he needed a briefcase to carry his papers.
When Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented her first Union Budget in 2019, she became the first to buck the tradition. As with all traditions, bucking the trend was done with careful intention. Calling it a colonial legacy, Sitharaman used a traditional ‘bahi khata’ instead.
She had also declared, “For Budget 2019, I did not carry a suitcase. We are not a suitcase carrying government. A suitcase also denotes something else, ‘suitcase taking, suitcase giving.’ Modiji’s government is not a suitcase government.”
Also read: In Pictures: The journey of the budget bag
In 2020, the bahi khata was ditched in favour of something more digital -- a tablet. Reportedly a ‘Made in India’ iPad, the tablet was thought to be used in order to be more COVID-19 safe. But much like the iconic bahi khata was chosen for a reason, the tablet too was curated to reflect the government’s push towards Digital India.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)
First Published: IST