The Budget will be presented by the Narendra Modi government on February 1. This will be the last Budget before the Lok Sabha election due this year. Political pundits say that this Budget is like the election manifesto of the ruling party. Many feel that this would be the last chance for the Modi government to impress the masses. The country has had as many as 30 finance ministers since Independence. Let us take a look at the all the distinguished leaders who held this key portfolio and what their journey as the finance minister was like:
RK Shanmukham Chetty: 1947-1948
Independent India's first Budget was presented by the country's first finance minister, RK Shanmukham Chetty, on November 26, 1947. It was an interim Budget and a review of the economy and no new taxes were proposed as the budget day for 1948-49 was just 95 days away. He resigned shortly. It is believed that he was asked to resign by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India due to a minor dereliction of duty by a subordinate official, so as to ensure probity.
TT Krishnamachari: 1957-1958
TT Krishnamachari took over from CD Deshmukh. He found that the calculations made in the Budget for 1955-56 had gone awry. So, on November 30, 1956 in a 5,000-word speech he described the changed economic situation and underlined the need to levy fresh taxes even before the next budget was presented. The Second General Elections were held in February-March 1957 and he presented an interim Budget for 1957-58 on March 14, 1957 and the full budget subsequently. He was instrumental in setting up the country’s three major steel plants and financial institutions like IDBI, ICICI and UTI. Krishnamachari had to resign in February 1958 when Justice Chagla Commission found him guilty of corruption.
Krishnamachari once again became the finance minister for the second time in 1964-66. He presented the budgets for 1964-65 and 1965-66. Embarking upon measures needed for providing social security, Krishnamachari expanded the pension scheme to cover family members of the deceased government servants by introducing a new Family Pension Scheme in 1964.
Jawaharlal Nehru: 1958-1959
Following Krishnamachari’s resignation in 1958, the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, himself took charge of the finance portfolio and presented the Budget for 1958-59. In the opening para of his budget speech Nehru had said, “According to custom, the budget statement for the coming year has to be presented today (February 28, 1958). By an unexpected and unhappy chain of circumstances the Finance Minister, who would normally have made this statement this afternoon is no longer with us. This heavy duty has fallen upon me almost at the last moment.”
Morarji Desai: 1959-1964
Morarji Desai presented the maximum number of Budgets as finance minister. The 10 Budgets include 5 annual and 1 interim Budget during his first stint. In his second tenure, he presented 3 full Budgets and one interim as finance minister and deputy prime minister. His annual Budgets were for the years from 1959-60 to 1963-64 and the interim Budget for 1962-63. After the fourth General Elections in 1967, Morarji Desai once again became the finance minister. This was his second stint. The annual budgets for three years 1967-68 to 1969-70 and the interim budget for 1967-68 were also presented by him. The interim budget for 1967-68 was on account of the General Elections in March 1967. He was the only Finance Minister to have had the opportunity to present two budgets on his birthday - in 1964 and 1968. He was born on February 29.
Indira Gandhi: 1969-71
After Morarji Desai’s resignation, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister assumed the finance portfolio. So far, she has been the only woman finance minister of the country till date.
Pranab Mukherjee: 1982-1984
Pranab Mukherjee presented the annual Budgets for 1982-83, 1983-84 and 1984-85. He was the first Rajya Sabha member to hold the finance portfolio. Pranab Mukherjee's first stint as the Finance minister of India was during the Indira Gandhi government in 1982. He presented his first annual budget in 1982–83. Mukherjee's first term was noted for his work in improving the finances of the government and for successfully returning the last instalment of India's first IMF loan. The 2010–11 Budget included the country's first explicit target to cut public debt as a proportion of GDP
Rajiv Gandhi: 1987-1988
Rajiv Gandhi presented the Budget for 1987-88. He was the third Prime Minister to present a Budget. The exercise in zero-based budget began in 1987-88. The zero-based budgeting is a process of review, analysis and evolution for each budget request in order to justify its inclusion or exclusion from the integrated whole budget before it is finally approved. In India, the zero-based budgeting was implemented in three phases - one third in the first year, two thirds in the second year and fully from the third year. It is a continuous process.
Yashwant Sinha: 1991-1992 & 1998-2002
Yashwant Sinha became the finance minister and presented the interim budget for 1991-1992. In March 1998, he again got the finance portfolio in the first ever BJP-led Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. He presented the interim and final budgets for 1998-99. He again became the finance minister in 1999. He had presented four annual budgets - from 1999-2000 to 2002-2003. Yashwant Sinha was the first to present the budget for 1999-2000 in the forenoon. Earlier, the budgets used to be presented at five in the evening as a pre-Independence custom introduced by the British establishment. Sinha paid great attention to rationalisation of excise and reduced the slabs from 11 to 1.
Manmohan Singh: 1991-1996
Manmohan Singh served as the governor of the Reserve Bank of India in the late 1980s, and was given the portfoilo of finance in 1991 by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. He presented the final budget for 1991-92 in July 1991. This was the first occasion when the interim and final budgets were presented by two ministers of two different political parties. The next four annual budgets of Manmohan Singh had an orientation different from the one followed till then. The economic liberalisation package pushed by Singh and Rao opened the nation to foreign direct investment and reduced the red tape that had previously impeded business growth. He was instrumental in making of an opened economy. He reduced the peak import duty from 300 plus to 50 per cent. He will be remembered best for making the rupee convertible in current account in just two phases. Introducing the concept of ‘service tax’ was his idea.
Jaswant Singh: 1996 & 2002-2004
He served as Finance minister in the short-lived government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which lasted just from May 16, 1996, to June 1, 1996. In July 2002, he again became the finance minister switching posts with Yashwant Sinha. He served as finance minister till May 2004 and was instrumental in defining and pushing through the market-friendly reforms of the government.
P Chidambaram: 1996-1998 & 2004-2014
In 1966, P Chidambaram, of the Tamil Maanila Congress, was given the key Cabinet portfolio of Finance in the coalition government supported by the left parties. It was the second time that interim and final budgets were presented by two ministers of different political parties. He was re-appointed as the finance minister under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2004. He remained so through 2014, except for a three-and-a-half-year stint – beginning November 2008 – as home minister, in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Chidambaram returned as finance minister in July 2012, succeeding Pranab Mukherjee.
Arun Jaitley: 2014-present
Arun Jaitley took charge of the finance ministry in 2014. Owning to his ill-health, he will not be able to present the interim Budget on February 1. Under his ministership, the government successfully met its social welfare initiatives. The country also migrated to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which ended the gamut of indirect taxes.
Kshitish Chandra Neogy charge of the finance ministry in 1948. He was the second Finance Minister of free India. He held office for just 35 days and didn't get an opportunity to present a Budget. John Mathai presented two budgets for 1949-50 and 1950-51. CD Deshmukh presented an interim budget for 1951-52. He was the finance minister from 1950-1956. Sachindra Choudhuri presented the budget for 1966-67. YB Chavan presented the interim budget for 1971-72 and the final budgets for four years - 1971-72 to 1974-75. C Subramaniam presented the budgets between 1975-76 and 1976-77. HM Patel presented the interim budget for 1977-78. He also presented the annual budget for 1978-79. The budget for 1979-80 was presented by Chaudhary Charan Singh who was also Deputy Prime Minister. Ramaswamy Venkataraman presented the interim and final budgets for 1980-81 and the annual budget for 1981-82. VP Singh presented the annual budgets for 1985-86 and 1986-87. ND Tiwari presented the budget for the year 1988-1989. SB Chavan did the budget exercise for 1989-90. Madhu Dandavate presented the annual budget for 1990-1991.