It was one of the longest budget speeches, peppered with Urdu, Hindi and Tamil couplets, when the country’s first full-time woman Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s addressed the Lok Sabha on Friday.
During her 2 hours 17 minutes long maiden budget presentation, Sitharaman did not pause to have a sip of water.
The budget proposals were welcomed with frequent thumping of desks by the treasury benches with Prime Minister Narendra Modi too joining the members. Speaker Om Birla also lauded Sitharaman for her presentation of the budget as the country’s first full-time woman finance minister.
As the finance minister walked into Lok Sabha just before 10:55 am and took her seat, several women MPs walked up to her, wishing her good luck before the speech. After the pleasantries, a confident Sitharaman took her seat and adjusted the mike.
She also greeted her parents Savithri and Narayanan Sitharaman and her journalist daughter Vangmayi Parkala, who were sitting in the gallery. A native of Tamil Nadu, Sitharaman received the longest applause when she made certain announcements on rural artisans in Hindi.
Her speech was laced with Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit and even Tamil verses. In fact, she started out with an Urdu couplet from poet Manzoor Hashmi. “Yakeen ho to koi rasta niklta hai, hawa ki ot bhi le kar chirag jalta hai,” she said. The couplet means that if you are determined, you can find a way notwithstanding the adversities.
While the treasury benches were full, several seats in the Opposition remained vacant. The significant absentees included the father-son duo of Mulayam and Akhilesh Singh Yadav. The gallery reserved for Rajya Sabha was almost full. Among those present from the Upper House in the gallery were D Raja, Kumar Ketkar, Narendra Jadhav, K Alphons, Majeed Memon and Swapan Dasgupta. A few foreign dignitaries were seen in the visitors’ gallery.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who arrived in the House a couple of minutes after Sitharaman started her budget speech, was seen frequently checking his phone. His mother and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was sitting next to him in the front row and left a few minutes before the budget speech concluded. Sonia left behind her small red purse with embroidery work, which was picked by Rahul after the House was adjourned.
The husband-wife duo of Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, Maneka Gandhi and her son Varun Gandhi, actress and Mathura MP
Hema Malini and her stepson Sunny Deol were among the members present in the House.
LJP leader and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and his son Chirag were also present. Sons of three Congress leaders Karti Chidambaram, Nakulnath and Gaurav Gogoi were seen sitting together in the House.