The budget has always been a highly anticipated event in India, going back to when the country gained independence from the British. In November 1947, independent India’s first finance minister, RK Shanmukham Chetty, broadcast the first budget on the radio after presenting it to parliament. These days, however, the budget unfolds in real time on television and social media.
Jaswant Singh served as India’s finance minister between 2002 and 2004. This was the period when the country was battling slowing growth and a brutal drought. Under prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Singh held several other cabinet positions, including minister of defence and minister of external affairs.
Manmohan Singh, during his tenure of finance minister between 1991 and 1996 presided over a period of dramatic changes. It was during his time, the watershed reforms that liberalised India’s economy and opened it up to the rest of the world, setting it on a course of rapid growth.
P Chidambaram presented the most number of budgets in India—nine, over three terms in the 1990s and 2000s after Morarji Desai. In 1997, Chidamabaram presented what was commonly known as “dream budget”. It is remembered for slashing the personal income tax rates that led to a surge in India’s income tax collections. Chidambaram was the one who included the proposal to move towards a unified goods and services tax in his budget speech in 2006.
In 1990, Yashwant Sinha briefly served as India’s finance minister, but it was during his second term, between 1998 and 2002, that he spearheaded a big change in the process of presenting the budget. For years, it was customarily presented to parliament at 5pm on the last day of February. This practice dated back to the colonial era and was designed for the convenience of lawmakers in the British House of Commons. But in February 1999, Sinha decided to present the budget at 11am, so that government officials and reporters could go through the documents during the day.
Pranab Mukherjee first served as finance minister in the 1980s under prime minister Indira Gandhi. He took the position once again in 2009 after serving as defence minister and then minister for external affairs under prime minister Manmohan Singh.
Jaitley has been India’s finance minister since 2014, when the Narendra Modi government came to power. Last year, he presided over several changes to the annual event, combining the country’s railway budget with the main budget for the first time in 92 years, and presenting it on the first day of February, instead of the last. This year, he’ll be presenting the fifth budget of his tenure on the morning of Feb. 01.
Union Minister Piyush Goyal presented the last Interim Budget of the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. From direct cash transfer to small farmers and better gratuity terms to income tax relief, the Interim Budget appeared to be keeping the national elections in its radar.
On July 5, Sitharaman makes her first major public appearance in her new role, presenting India’s budget at a time when she’s under pressure to spend more to reinvigorate the economy. She must find resources for welfare programs announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, including 870 billion rupees ($12.6 billion) for a new measure to support farmers. And she must do all that while keeping the national deficit below 3.4% of GDP, a target credit rating companies are watching closely.