Budget 2020: Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget speech is longest in India’s history
When just two pages were left, Sitharaman opted to cut short her Budget speech as she felt unwell after speaking for a record 160 minutes in the Lok Sabha. She appeared uneasy and was seen wiping sweat from her forehead, according to PTI.
She was offered candies by her ministerial colleagues, but that did not help and she ended the speech asking Speaker Om Birla to consider the remaining part of her speech as read.
In 2019 as well, Sitharaman, India’s first full-time woman finance minister, had delivered a marathon Budget speech that lasted two hours 17 minutes, going past Jaswant Singh’s record of two hours 15 minutes in 2003. Her speech in 2019 was peppered with Urdu, Hindi and Tamil couplets.
This time, Sitharaman continued the tradition of reciting poetry, quoting renowned Kashmiri poet Pandit Dinanath Kaul Nadim, a Sahitya Academi Award winner.
Reciting a verse in Kashmiri, she translated it in Hindi as: “Humara watan khilte hue Shalimar bagh jaise, humara watan Dal Lake mein khilte hue kamal jaisa, nau jawanon ke garam khoon jaisa, mera watan tera watan, humara watan, duniya ka sabse pyara watan.. (Our nation is like Shalimar Bagh, our nation is like the lotus in the Dal Lake, our nation is like the energy of the youth, my nation your nation, our nation, the most adorable nation in the world.)”
The most words
In terms of the number of words, in 1991, Manmohan Singh, then finance minister in the Narasimha Rao government, delivered the longest Budget speech so far, which comprised 18,650 words. The economic reforms kick-started with his landmark Budget thanks to a liberalised investment and trade regime. Sitharaman’s speech this year had 13,275 words.
Former finance minister Arun Jaitley, who passed away in 2019, holds the record for the second-longest speech comprising 18,604 words, delivered in 2018. Jaitley’s Budget speeches in 2015 (18,122 words), 2018 (17,991 words) and 2014 (16,528) hold the third, fourth and fifth spots, respectively.
The shortest speech award comprising just 800 words went to H M Patel in 1977 when he presented the interim Budget.