first_imgThe Union Budget is one that carries around it an air of intrigue. We break down the mystique behind the process:TIME TABLEIt takes about five to seven months to prepare the Union Budget. The time-honoured tradition was to present the Budget on the last working day of February until 2017, when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley changed the date to February 1.BLUE SHEETThe first cut of the Budget, with key numbers that are updated with new data constantly, is always handed over to the FM in light blue paper. A colonial hangover, as historically blue stood for unedited, preliminary documents in British Parliament. The Blue Sheet is guarded to zealously that not even the FM is allowed to keep it with himself.TICK TOCK Until 1999, the Union Budget used to be announced at 5 pm. From 2001, FM Yashwant Sinha set a new tradition: the Budget hour is now 11 am. Yashwant Sinha holds his suitcase containing his budget proposal while leaving the Finance ministry building in New Delhi on February 28, 2001. (Photo: Reuters)LONG AND SHORTThe speech usually lasts about an hour, but not always. The longest speech was delivered by Manmohan Singh in 1991 (18,650 words), followed closely by Jaitley (18,604 words) last year. The shortest? By HM Patel (800 words) in 1977.SECRET FILESTight security measures, tapping of phones and computers, high-tech surveillance, sweeps for electronic bugs, hidden cameras, jammers and scanners are all pressed into service, to ensure nothing gets leaked before presentation as it did in the 1950s. Security force personnel use a sniffer dog to check bags containing budget papers inside the parliament premises in New Delhi, India, February 1, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)SWEET CEREMONY advertisementThe printing starts roughly a week ahead at a press in the basement of the finance ministry. The occasion is flagged off by a halwa ceremony when large quantities of the desi sweet are served by the FM to around 100 officers and staff. Arun Jaitley and other officials participating in the ‘halwa ceremony’, a ritual which marks the process of printing documents for the Budget for 2017-18.THE LOCK-IN The staff is then quarantined inside the North Block until the Budget is presented. They cannot leave the premises, cannot contact their family or friends; food tasters sample their food first; doctors stay on board; and if they need to step out in critical situations, they are accompanied by intelligence officials and the police.SAY CHEESE On Budget day, the FM holds aloft his briefcase right outside the Parliament for a press photocall, before setting off to deliver his speech, an essential custom that goes back all the way to Queen Victoria’s time. In the UK, the FM uses a red leather briefcase, a hand-me-down from his predecessors. In India, the finance ministry procures it. The memorable ones? Yashwant Sinha’s buckle strap leather case and Pranab Mukherjee’s red velvet briefcase. Pranab Mukherjee poses as he leaves his office to present the 2012/13 federal budget in New Delhi March 16, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)QUOTABLE QUOTES FMs invariably quote famous people during the Budget speech: Manmohan Singh favoured Rabindranath Tagore and Victor Hugo, Jaitley and P Chidambaram quoted saints Vivekananda and Tiruvalluvar respectively. Pranab Mukherjee, by contrast, had a penchant for quoting Kautilya and ShakespeareSARTORIAL SURPRISE The Budget Day is a day for making statements. And which FM does not want to wear his signature dress code? For Shanmukham Chetty, the first FM of independent India, it was dhoti-kurta and Gandhi topi; Jaitley would team his kurta pyjama with eyeball-grabbing Nehru jackets. Mukherjee would sport his trusted bandh-gala while Chidambaram always came in his starched white shirt and mundu. Budget fashion through the ages.LIVE COVERAGE OF INTERIM BUDGET 2019 | Will PM Modi bring the josh back before 2019 polls?READ | Budget 2019: What the aam janta expects from Modi govtFYI | Interim budget 2019 glossary: A layman’s guide to understanding key termsWATCH | Was the economy healthier under Manmohan Singh or PM Modi?last_img