New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday presented her sixth consecutive budget with a speech lasting 56 minutes, her shortest-ever.
Dressed in a turquoise-coloured embroidered Kantha silk saree, as Sitharaman delivered her speech it was lauded at regular intervals by the treasury benches -- her remarks on the presentation of the full budget by "our government" in July receiving the loudest cheer.
The opposition members listened to Sitharaman's budget speech with rapt attention, barring some voices of disapproval to the minister's reference to her government returning to power after the Lok Sabha elections.
Earlier, BJP members raised slogans of Bharat Mata ki Jai, Jai Shri Ram, Jai Siya Ram as Prime Minister Narendra Modi entered the Lok Sabha chamber and took his seat a few minutes before 11:00 am.
At 56 minutes, it was Sitharaman's shortest budget speech. She also holds the distinction of delivering the longest budget speech at two hours and forty minutes in 2020.
In 2019, as India's first full-time woman finance minister, Sitharaman's budget speech had lasted for two hours and 17 minutes. In 2021, her speech lasted for one hour and 50 minutes, followed by 92 minutes in 2022 and 87 minutes in 2023.
Sitharaman's budget speech found no mention of Tamil poets and thinkers unlike previous occasions, but she referred to Prime Minister Modi at least eight times and quoted from his speeches.
The public galleries saw thin attendance with a few Rajya Sabha members occupying seats in Gallery 2, while relatives of Finance Minister Sitharaman – Krishnamurthy Lakshminarayan and Vidya Lakshminarayan – and her daughter Vangmayi Parakala were seated in the first row of Gallery 3.
Sitharaman, Ministers of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary and Bhagwat Karad, and top officers from the Finance Ministry called on President Droupadi Murmu before presenting the Budget.
The President gave Sitharaman a spoonful of curd and sugar and extended her best wishes for the presentation of the Union Budget.
In her budget speech, Sitharaman coined new expansion of FDI – First, Develop India and for GDP – Governance, Development and Performance.
"Besides delivering on high growth in terms of Gross Domestic Product, the government is equally focused on a more comprehensive 'GDP', i.e., 'Governance, Development and Performance'," Sitharaman said.
In 2019, Finance Minister Sitharaman did away with the traditional Budget briefcase and instead went for a 'bahi-khata' with the national emblem to carry the speech and other documents on a tablet computer, a tradition she stuck to on Thursday.
JD(U) leader Rajiv Ranjan 'Lalan' Singh, whose party re-joined the NDA last week, was seen applauding the budget speech on regular occasions.
The prime minister walked up to Sitharaman at the conclusion of her speech and congratulated her for the presentation of the interim budget.
Several ministers were also seen congratulating Sitharaman after her speech.