Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is reportedly sick and undergoing treatment in the US, will return to India to present the interim budget – Narendra Modi government’s last – according to reports citing sources. Earlier, the speculations were rife that the finance minister may not be able to present the budget in the last year of his government as he is in the US for the treatment. However, the reports citing finance minister sources in the government said that Jaitley will return to India on February 1.
The 66-year-old finance minister has not been keeping well for the last few years. Last year, he had undergone a kidney transplant. Recently, he went to the US for a "regular medical check-up". The visit, which came in an election season, triggered speculations that the interim budget might be presented by someone else since Jaitley was not in the country.
In April last year, Jaitley had announced that he was being treated for kidney-related problems and started working from a controlled environment at home. He had even skipped taking oath after re-election as Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh. Following his kidney transplant later in 2018, Union Minister Piyush Goyal had taken over the additional charge of the finance ministry until Jaitley recovered and re-joined the office.
The budget 2019 is crucial for the Modi government, which is likely to make some major announcements for farmers and the middle class owing to the Lok Sabha elections scheduled to be held later this year. According to sources, the government is considering increasing the income tax exemption limit in a bid to woo the middle-class voters. The government may also announce some schemes to lure the farmers' community who is not happy with it and is being considered as the biggest hurdle in its re-election.
The budget will be presented on February 1 during the special budget session of Parliament. It was Jaitley who changed the tradition of presenting the annual budget on the last working day of February by tabling the budget on the first day of February.