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Budget speech: Mix of wit, humour, words of wisdom

Last updated on: July 06, 2009 16:23 IST

Quoting medieval India's political thinker Kautilya as well as Mahatma Gandhi, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday punctuated his Budget speech with words of wisdom, wit and humour.

Mukherjee invoked the ideals of Kautilya, the mentor of king Chandragupta Maurya, twice during his 100-minute speech in the Lok Sabha as he presented the Union Budget for 2009-10.

"In the interest of the prosperity of the country, a king shall be diligent in foreseeing the possibility of calamities, try to avert them before they arise, overcome those which happen, remove obstructions to economic activity and prevent loss of revenue to the state," he said quoting Kautilya.

Before announcing tax proposals, he again cited the sayings of the thinker, whose Arth Shashtra' is considered as a masterpiece in political and economic theory.

"Just as one plucks fruits from a garden as they ripen, so shall a king have revenue collected as it becomes due.

Just as one does not collect unripe fruits, he shall avoid taking wealth that is not due because that will make the people angry and spoil the very sources of revenue," Mukherjee said.

The speech had some tinge of humour too.

Mukherjee said he 'fears' that his proposal to increase customs duty on gold and silver could 'dent my popularity with women. . .I propose to salvage this by fully exempting branded jewellery from excise duty."

Mukherjee described tax collectors as honeybees, which collect nectar without disturbing the flowers.

The speech was disrupted twice by UPA allies Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad while opposition MPs were on their feet at the end demanding a special relief package for Bihar.

Yadav interrupted Mukherjee and suggested abolition of the MPs' Local Area Development Fund. "Abolish it. We are getting a bad name because of it," he said.

Prasad also got up at one point of time and said, "Bihar ki janata watch kar rahi hai. . .Kosi peedito ko special package dijiye (People of Bihar are watching...announce a special package for the Kosi flood victims)."

The members in the Treasury Benches retorted by saying, "Desh ka budget hai, Bihar ka nahi (This is the country's budget, not of Bihar)."

Later, when Mukherjee ended his speech, several Opposition MPs were on their feet to protest the absence of a special package for Bihar.

At one juncture during his speech, Mukherjee was reminded through a slip of paper that he had skipped the proposals related to minority welfare.

Though Mukherjee apologised for the oversight, an alert Shahnawaz Hussain, BJP's minority face, did not let the opportunity go. "Bhoolna hi thaa to minority ko (You had to forget only the minority)," he quipped.

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