Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday became only the second woman in the history of independent India to present the Union Budget.
Sitharaman, 59, presented the Modi 2.0 government’s maiden Budget in the Lok Sabha. Prior to the presentation, the Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the Budget for 2019-20.
She handed over a copy of the Union Budget to President Ram Nath Kovind before her maiden Budget speech. Breaking away from the brown Budget briefcase, Sitharaman held a red parcel like bag with a key hole on the emblem.
Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was the first and only woman till now to have presented the Union Budget. In 1970, she presented the Union Budget of India for 1970-71, after she took over the finance portfolio following the resignation of Morarji Desai as finance minister.
Gandhi held the portfolio for a year before appointing her home minister, Yashwantrao Chavan, as finance minister. Morarji Desai holds the distinction of presenting the most number of budgets — 10.
Sitharaman presented the 29th Budget (excluding interim ones) post-economic liberalisation in 1991. Prior to her, six finance ministers — Manmohan Singh (1991-1996), Yashwant Sinha (1998-2003), Jaswant Singh (2003-2004), P Chidambaram (1996-1998, 2004-2009, 2013-2014), Pranab Mukherjee (2009-2013), and Arun Jaitley (2014-2019) — had presented 28 Budgets.
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In the post-liberalisation era, Chidambaram presented the most number of Budgets – eight. Manmohan Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Jaitley presented five Budgets each while Pranab Mukherjee presented four. Jaswant Singh presented only one Budget.
Jaitley presented all the five Budgets of the Modi government’s first tenure but missed out on presenting the interim budget in February this year due to ill-health. Stand-in finance minister Piyush Goyal presented the pre-general election interim budget on February 1 this year.
Sitharaman was also the second woman defence minister after Indira Gandhi who held the portfolio till 1982. However, unlike Gandhi, she was the first full-time women defence minister.
Gandhi held the defence ministry portfolio between November 1975 and December 1975 and again from January 1980 to January 1982 alongside being the Prime Minister of the country.