Opinion

What ‘quotes’ in Budget speeches reveal about Finance Ministers

Suman K Jha | Updated on March 07, 2021

Inspiring presence Swami Vivekananda   -  -

Thinkers, poets, philosophers, former Prime Ministers and Bollywood have all found their place Budget speeches

It is instructive to look at some of the inspirational quotes that find a mention in the recent Budget, as also in the earlier ones. These quotes and verses provide interesting insights into our leaders’ and former Finance Ministers’, and their parties’, worldviews and their responses to contemporary challenges.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has quoted from sources as diverse as Rabindranath Tagore, Pandit Dinanath Koul, woman-saint poet Avvaiyar, Kalidasa and Pisiranthaiyar , in her Budget speeches.

Former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was not too fond of quoting poets or authors, but aphorisms were liberally used in his Budget speeches.

Going by his Budget speeches, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram comes across as a big follower of Saint Thiruvalluvar – he has quoted the Saint almost in all his Budget speeches.

Yashwant Sinha is probably too fond of Bollywood, as his Budget speeches were often peppered with references to Hindi film titles and some clever use of them.

Both Sinha and Chidambaram have quoted their respective party leaders — Sinha quoted then PM A B Vajpayee’s work, while Chidambaram made references to former PMs Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi – to make a point or two in their Budget speeches.

A perennial favourite

However, if there’s one icon who has found a mention in the Budget speeches of leaders ranging from Sitharaman to Jaitley to Sinha to Chidambaram, it is Swami Vivekananda.

Sitharaman in her recent Budget speech mentions a couplet from Thirukkural — “A king/ruler is the one who creates and acquires wealth, protects and distributes it for common good”.

Pandit Dinanath Koul’s Kashmiri verse found a mention in her Budget speech last year. The English translation read: “Everything that we do, all of us do, is for this beautiful country”.

Apart from the recurring presence of Saint Thiruvalluvar in his Budget speeches, Chidambaram has also quoted Amartya Sen and Muhammad Yunus, in his Budget speeches.

In his 2005-06 Budget speech, he quoted Sen from his book “Development as Freedom”. The passage read: “Growth of GNP or of individual incomes can, of course, be very important as means to expanding the freedoms enjoyed by the members of the society. But freedoms depend also on other determinants, such as social and economic arrangements, as well as political and civil rights”.

Yashwant Sinha said in his 1998-99 Budget speech that Swadeshi meant making India self-reliant, and quoted Vajpayee in the same vein.

In his Budget for the year 1999-2000, he used another Vajpayee quote, which read: “With dreams of prosperity and marching at a stormy pace, the tide of patriotism will not recede. Let the courageous come forward to join me”.

Bollywood films Dil Se and Hum Apke Hain Kaun also found mention the same speech, while promising support to the entertainment industry.

Quoting Jawaharlal Nehru, Chidambaram said in his 2007-08 Budget speech: “Everything else can wait, but not agriculture”.

Pranab Mukherjee, in his Budget speech in 2010-11, invoked Kautilya while explaining his tax administration. The quote by Kautilya read: “A wise collector general shall conduct the work of revenue collection in a manner that production and consumption should not be injuriously affected. Financial prosperity depends on public prosperity, abundance of harvest, and prosperity of commerce, among other things”.

Jaitley, on the other hand, used interesting aphorisms in his Budget speeches. In 2017-18, he said: “When my aim is right, when my goal is in sight, the winds favour me, and I fly”. In his 2016-17 Budget speech, he said: “Champions are made from something … they have deep inside of them – a desire, a dream, a vision”.

It is the Upanishad-inspired mantra in Jaitley’s speech in 2015-16 that would probably be every Finance Minister’s – and every ruler’s – leitmotif: “May all be happy; May all be free from illness; May all see what is beneficial; May no one suffer”.

The author, a JNU alumnus, is a former journalist

Published on March 07, 2021

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