At 11:05 am, Congress MP Rajiv Satav sidled into the House. He whispered something to colleague Sushmita Deb and handed her a handful of laser-printed placards. One set said: ‘How’s the jobs!’ Another simply said: ‘15 lakh?’ These placards were raised every time Finance Minister Piyush Goel mentioned the word ‘jobs’ in his interim Budget speech.
As disturbances go, Goyal’s speech was relatively interruption-free, except for bursts of maniacal and hysterical laughter for apparently no reason, as Trinamool Congress MPs Kalyan Banerji and Idris Ali advised him periodically to “drink water” (paanipeejiye). Actually, it was the Treasury benches that held up the finance minister as MPs chanted ‘Modi-Modi’ for nearly 90 seconds when Goyal announced a tax rebate for people earning less than Rs 5,00,000 annually.
Minister for Food Processing Harsimrat Singh Badal sat impassively as the government unveiled its plans to support farmer incomes. Maneka Gandhi shook her head and pursed her lips as Goyal announced a small increase in the Integrated Child Development Services outlay. Nirmala Sitharaman beamed as Goyal announced the defence outlay, which is just 1.2 per cent more than last year. At the mention of building a new airport in Sikkim’s Pakyong, Minister of State Babul Supriyo reached out to Minister of Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha and patted him on the back.
Do MPs use some kind of smoke signals before deciding what to wear on the Budget day? Urban Development Minister Hardeep Puri and Minister for Drinking Water S S Ahluwalia wore turbans in matching blue. The sixth row in the Lok Sabha was occupied by ladies, all of whom wore ivory. Last year, it was yellow. The neon green of HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar’s kurta matched the green in the PM’s waistcoat, which in turn was perfectly colour-coordinated with the green waistcoat Agriculture Minister Radhamohan Singh was wearing.
This much is true: Piyush Goyal’s stock, already up, soared as Narendra Modi walked up to him and shook him by the hand. After that there was a surge of MPs wanting to do the same. Some looked happy, some plainly envious.