Manmohan Singh did it on February 28, 1996. So did Pranab Mukherjee on February 16, 2009. And on Monday, P Chidambaram also followed suit by invoking the Congress party’s election symbol towards the end of his Interim Budget speech for 2014-15.

The Finance Minister didn’t mince any words by making a strong pitch for his party in an address clearly timed for the ensuing Lok Sabha polls.

Claiming that the ten years under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance had led to 140 million Indians being lifted out of poverty, Chidambaram said he was sure “the people of India will entrust the responsibility to a hand” that will hold the “sceptre swayed with equity”.

Chidambaram is not the first Finance Minister to have explicitly referred to the “hand”. The President Pranab Mukherjee was even more unabashed in his Interim Budget speech for 2009-10 as Finance Minister ahead of the last general elections.

Noting how the electorate will soon be called upon to exercise their democratic right to choose the next Government, Mukherjee said he had “no doubt that when the time comes, our people will recognise the hand…that alone can help our nation on the road to peace and prosperity”.

Mukherjee was proved right when the UPA was returned back to power in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Chidambaram and the Congress may be wishing for a repeat three months from now, despite opinions polls suggesting otherwise.

If the opinion polls turn out correct, Chidambaram’s reference to the ‘hand’ may be as much in vain as when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the Finance Minister to present the Interim Budget for 1996-97.

Singh’s speech concluded with the hope that “when the time comes, our people will be discriminating enough to recognise the friendly hand that alone can help our nation to move forward on the road to peace and prosperity and preserve its unity and integrity”.

He was proved wrong.