New Delhi: Before Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the budget documents in the Parliament Friday, the red cloth in which they were wrapped in was taken to Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak and Mahalakshmi temples to seek blessings.
Sitharaman told reporters that her aunt had stitched the cloth in the style of a big envelope —or bahi-khata — and took it to the two temples to seek the blessings of Ganesha and Mahalakshmi.
The red-cloth envelope was then given an official look with the pinning of the national emblem — Ashoka Chakra.
Sitharaman, India’s first full-time woman finance minister, surprised many by carrying the budget documents wrapped in the red cloth rather than the traditional leather briefcase used by her predecessors.
“I thought it is high time we move on from the British hangover, to do something on our own. And well, easier for me to carry too,” Sitharaman said.
The aunt, who she calls her ‘mami’, also attended Parliament to listen to Sitharaman’s speech.
When asked about the move, Chief Economic Advisor K.V. Subramanian, told ANI that it symbolised, “our departure from the slavery of Western thought. It is not a budget but a bahi-khata (ledger)”.
Congress mocked ‘bahi-khata’
Bahi-khata has caught the fancy of many, but predictably has the opposition mocking the move.
Former finance minister and Congress leader P. Chidambaram said that the future Congress finance minister would carry the budget in an iPad.
“Take it from me, our Congress’s finance minister will in future bring an iPad,” Chidambaram said.
Bahi-khata was not the only departure from tradition by Sitharaman. She also did not spend any time in her speech talking about various allocations made to ministries or about the government’s fiscal performance and targets, unlike her predecessors.
Besides, Sitharaman’s speech was full of references to mythology and quotes from Tamil and Urdu poems.