Budget 2023: Rural to urban, farmers to capital, how Sitharaman is reshaping Budget lexicon
Bud TriviaBudget

Budget 2023: Rural to urban, farmers to capital, how Sitharaman is reshaping Budget lexicon

There has been significant transition in Nirmala Sitharaman's choice of words over years, ThePrint finds after analysing budget speeches from the beginning of her tenure in 2019-20.

Illustration: Manisha Yadav | ThePrint

Illustration: Manisha Yadav | ThePrint

New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will deliver the final full-fledged budget on the first of February for the fifth time before the 17th Lok Sabha concludes. In the five years of her finance ministership, Sitharaman has profusely put her thrust on investments, building capital and spending on infrastructure. 

Using text analyser tools via data science, ThePrint scanned the speech text of the Finance Ministers since 2014-15 and built a dictionary of relevant words along with their frequency. Turns out, Sitharaman is making some significant changes in the budget speech vocabulary.

Our tools yielded the frequency of words used by the finance minister in her speeches (speech text available at the list of budget documents), from the 2019-20 budget till 2022-23. ThePrint removed all the irrelevant words to make more sense out of the budgetary speeches.  

Graphics: Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint

In her budget 2022-23 speech, the words ‘capital’ and ‘digital’ topped the list of words frequently used. She mentioned ‘digital’ 34 times and ‘capital’ 33 times. Multiple contexts make it possible for these two words to appear repeatedly, however, this also defines the thrust. 

The word ‘capital’, which has varied meanings depending on the sentence, was used in the context of capital expenditure, which was raised to Rs 7.5 trillion last budget. But this word was also used to highlight building up of private capital, access to capital, resource capital and capital investments. 

The word ‘infrastructure’ followed, with a frequency of 25, and ‘investment’, 24 times.

This is a significant transition in her choice of words compared to when she became the finance minister during the second term of the Modi government in 2019. 

During the beginning of her tenure, the words ‘investment’ and ‘infrastructure’ dominated her speech, but the word ‘scheme’ topped the frequency distribution chart. This could be explained by the fact that the newly-appointed Modi government announced various new schemes (or extensions of old schemes) and phases of schemes to explain their vision for a variety of sectors, ranging from fishing, rural industry to UDAN, entrepreneurship, etc. 

At that time the word ‘capital’ was spoken only 17 times — nearly with half the frequency it was spoken in the 2022-23 speech.

Also Read: It is time for Union Budget to go local. See how Sikkim, Bihar and Kerala did it

Farmers & capital

In the last three budgets preceding the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, ‘farmers’ was a frequently appearing word, used more than ‘infrastructure’, ‘capital’ and ‘investments’. However, that has not been the case under Sitharaman’s leadership. 

In total, Sitharaman has spoken the word ‘farmers’ as many as 46 times in the first four speeches, while her predecessor Arun Jaitley uttered it 94 times throughout his tenure

Jaitley mentioned ‘farmers’ 15 times in 2014-15 budget speech, 7 in 2015-16, 29 in 2016-17, 23 in 2017-18, and around 20 in 2018-19. In contrast, Sitharaman mentioned ‘farmers’ 9 times in 2019-20 budget speech, 12 in 2020-21, 13 in 2021-22 and 12 in 2022-23.

The urban-rural divide

Graphics: Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint

Interestingly, last year the finance minister made another big change to the budget dictionary. This was perhaps the first time in the budgets of the past 10 years that the word ‘urban’ was mentioned more than the word ‘rural’. Prior to that, it was the opposite. 

Last year, Sitharaman mentioned the word ‘urban’ 19 times in her speech. It came in the context of urban local bodies, urban development and urban transit. The word ‘rural’ appeared only 6 times in her speech. Collectively, Sitharaman has mentioned ‘urban’ 32 times and ‘rural’ 28 times in her speeches since the 2019-20 budget.

On the other hand, Jaitley uttered the word ‘urban’ just 18 times, while he mentioned ‘rural’ 98 times during his tenure. 

(Edited by Geethalakshmi Ramanathan)

Also Read: 51 cow universities, old pension scheme, jobs — what RSS affiliates want from 2023 Budget