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Arun Jaitley holds meeting on next budget amid rumours of ill health

Officials present at the meeting said Jaitley was in good health and looked fit to join the cabinet of the NDA government's second tenure

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley held a  meeting with top bureaucrats on Friday
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley held a meeting with top bureaucrats on Friday

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley held a meeting on Friday with top bureaucrats of the finance ministry, asking them to expedite plans for the first Budget of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s second tenure, scotching rumours of his ill health. He also discussed the elements of the BJP’s 2019 election manifesto, in whose implementation the finance ministry is expected to play a critical role.

Jaitley took the meeting on the day when the Union Cabinet passed a resolution to dissolve the 16th Lok Sabha. The meeting, held at the finance minister’s residence, lasted about an hour.

Finance Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg, Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey, Expenditure Secretary Girish Chandra Murmu, Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar, Dipam Secretary Atanu Chakraborty, and other senior officials from North Block, including the Enforcement Directorate's director and the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs’ chairperson, were present during the meeting. “He discussed the road map for the new government and the discussions revolved around the goods and services tax (GST), direct tax code, liquidity position of non-banking financial companies and other crucial topics,” a person aware of the development said, requesting anonymity.

“Issues that require continuity in implementation and the new agenda before the finance ministry in the NDA’s second tenure, both formed part of his conversation. There were specific discussions on what parts of the BJP manifesto the finance ministry is expected to roll out and implement,” he added. Another official, who was in the meeting, said Jaitley was in good health. “He told us to start work on the Budget 2019-20,” he added. 

The meeting did not go into granular details, in keeping with propriety of an outgoing government, he said.