Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman is all set to present her maiden budget today. While a lot of people are busy discussing about what will be her key focus areas in the Union Budget 2019 and how she will address the challenges facing the economy, it could also be quite interesting to guess how long she will talk.
Notably, as India is growing older, budget speeches are also getting longer, with increasing number of policy announcements being made during the Union Budget presentation.
The first budget speech of independent India, presented by R. K. Shanmukham Chetty, was only 39 paragraphs long. After that, budget speeches kept getting longer. Arun Jaitley’s first budget speech, presented in 2014, is by far the longest budget speech ever with 253 paragraphs. It went on for 2 hours and 10 minutes, which is excluding a four-minute break that he took for his health reasons.
Jaitley has actually emerged as the Union finance minister with the second-longest budget speeches on an average, in terms of the number of paragraphs in the speech. His speeches have run to about 185 paras on an average.
Jaitley gave his fifth budget speech in 2018 in about 109 minutes. His budget speech in 2017 was 110 minutes long. His second budget speech in 2015 exceeded two hours.
The record for the longest Budget speech, in terms of time taken, is held by Jaswant Singh, who clocked a time of 2 hours 13 minutes for his budget presentation in 2003, according to Indpaedia.com, a volunteer-based archival portal.
Former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was also India’s President later, had an average of 202 paragraphs for his budget speeches. Mukherjee’s average jumped because of the 220 paragraphs seen in 2012, which was also his last budget speech.
When Mukherjee had presented the 1982 budget presentation that had lasted 95 minutes, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said: “The shortest finance minister has delivered the longest budget speech.”
P. Chidambaram is third on the list with an average of 173 paragraphs. Notably, Chidambaram also stands at the second spot after Morarji R. Desai in terms of the number of Budgets presented by any Finance Minister. Chidambaram has presented a total of 9 budgets compared with Desai’s count of 10.
Other finance ministers among the top 10 spots presenting long budget speeches include Yashwant Sinha (170 paragraphs), Manmohan Singh (133), R.Venkataraman (132), Haribhai M. Patel (117), Yashwantrao B. Chavan (88), T.T.Krishnamachari (78) and Morarji R. Desai (77).
Going by the trend, Sitharaman’s Union Budget 2019 speech would be anything but short.