I was never really good at anything with numbers – mathematics, finance or economics. Naturally, I am unable to grasp the dynamics of the annual budget. Which is a pity because when people use terms like Fiscal Deficit, Gross Domestic Product or Cash Reserve Ratio, they come across as cool intellectuals. But I am so dumb that I took time to realize that the Finance minister was not referring to an insect repellant but the Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT). While I feign interest during the budgetary analysis, I actually grasp zilch.
However, what I know is that on the day of budget presentation the finance minister outshines the Prime Minister. He gets to wear a crisp kurta, carry a precious briefcase and give us a delicious mysterious smile. How can I forget Chidambaram’s smile just before he was about to pinch my pockets? As far as briefcases go, it looks innocuous enough, but holds the hopes and aspirations of a billion plus people.
Just as we get to see Messi’s girlfriend in the stands in Sao Paulo, we also get to see the finance minister’s elusive wife. Yes, behind every man about to score a goal is a woman with the assist.
On this big day, Rahul Bajaj, Deepak Parikh, Chanda Kochar and Naina Lal Kidwai grace our television sets to tell us whether taxes will squeeze the last pip of our lemons. As far as I understand, members of India Inc. are wary of criticizing the government in power, so they balance their act by telling us how the budget is a nice balancing act. Given their long term interests, it makes sense to run with the UPA and hunt with the NDA. Yeah, Kejriwal is right. Sometimes.
On this day, opposition leaders like Mayawati and Mulayam tell us how the budget is anti-poor, even as the ticker on television tells us that budget is poor friendly. The poor meanwhile are wondering how to buy onions for their next meal.
Another unfailing feature of our budget is the hike in excise duty on tobacco and cigarettes. Since our FM forgot all about the black money stashed away in the Cayman Islands, he decided to silence Ramdev by hiking excise duty on toilet cleaners..err cold drinks. (Those who think that the list of foreign account holders does not have a single person affiliated with the BJP, raise your hand.)
Meanwhile the main opposition party comes up with a rehearsed reaction on the budget – no clarity, no vision, nothing substantial. The budget is old wine in a new bottle.
For me, the silver lining was to see Arvind Kejriwal on my television after a long time. He told us that that if you close your eyes and listen to the budget speech, you can sense Chidambaram’s soul in Jaitley’s body. In other words, both are useless. Give me a chance to present a budget. Adani or Ambani ki aisi ki taisi.
On this day, the cartoonists have a field day, portraying the finance minister as Superman, Harry Potter or Akshay Kumar (remember Singh was once King as a Finance Minister in 1991). Since Football is the flavor of the season, we saw coach Modi using defender Arun Jaitley to score a goal. Only time will tell whether it was an own goal or a golden goal. Frankly, I don't care much about the convoluted economic jargon. What I wish to know is when can I buy veggies, milk and cereals and not feel the pinch? When can I travel by rail and feel clean, safe and comfortable? Will my tax refund arrive at all? And can the student from IIM Rohtak find a job that matches his counterpart elsewhere in the world?
At the end of the day, that golden briefcase carries hay, unless words get converted into meaningful action. Goals, I mean.