Like many, Pranab babu always fascinates me. Not only patriarch of grand old Congress, he is father figure of UPA-1 and UPA-2 also. His grasp on various subject ranging from soil conservation to spectrum complexities, nitty gritty of foreign policies to hard core politics stumbles many. At one point, he is heading almost 44 GoM (group of ministers) apart from his own foreign ministry! No wonder he is sharp shooter of Sonia and Dr. Manmohan.
All this virtue doesn't make his budget neither popular nor substantive. Rather, budget exercise becoming rapidly boring. As a journalist, I was / am keenly interested, involved in it almost from 12 years. From close corner, I saw PC's so called dream budget. Then comes Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant singh of NDA govt, again PC and now Pranabada's two successive. Through all these years, my excitement is vanishing more rapidly than rate of glacier disappearing! Wooohha
Till some year ago, many policy decision only announces in budget speech itself ! Remember Dr. Manmohans first budget speech @ 5 pm on July 1991. With blessing of PVNR (P.V. Narsinh Rao), he totally revolutionised Indian economy, its basic premises. Opened floodgates of massive Indian potential to take world on. What a game changing moments! Almost his next 4-5 budgets becomes synonymous with announcement of critical policy decision. Comes 26 or 28 feb., we glued to TV and PTI - UNI's printer. Newsroom bubbled with energy and enthusiasm. I feel such hype is on till Jaswant's 2002 interim budget. Then gradually it took slowly southward...
Now a days budget rarely prounces policy decisions. Nobody wait for Feb. 26 of each year to proclaim it. Neither time allows nor multi party govt system afford it. Barely a week before this budget, key policy of fertiliser subsidy is announced. Pranab didn't wait for budget speech. After cabinet nod, they immediately declared policies and implemented with immediate effects. Anyway it would be foolish to wait for, say 4-6-8 months, to announce it.
Another point is dominating coalition partner. Now many critical ministries handled by regional satrap, who thinks that they are not answerable to PM or Cabinet, but to their respective party bosses. This ensure credit claiming games. NCP minister doesn't want his ministries credit to be claimed by Cong., Trinumal doesn't miss any opportunity to show their commitment towards W. Bengal. In such scenario, who can afford that their key decision to be announced and claimed by Cong. FM.
So at finer and practical level, now it remains only statement of income and expenditure of govt. To make it attractive and relevant, each FM played with tax structure. When income tax bonanza given, excise duty bound to increased and vice versa. Sometime MAT, FBT, BTT also used as tricks. Nothing more than that.
Newspaper still romanticises with budget, giving (and wasting) to many pages. I can say this as a budget phobia... I hope, the days are not longer, when we will write obituary and pay condolence message. Long live budget...!