India

Nirmala Sitharaman: India finance minister ditches 'colonial' budget briefcase

Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (2R) with Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur (2L) looks on as she poses for a picture with her staff before leaving the Indian Finance Ministry for Parliament House to table the General Budget 2019-20 in New Delhi on July 5, 2019. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented her maiden budget on Friday

India's Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman chose to ditch the "colonial" briefcase while presenting her maiden budget to parliament.

Ms Sitharaman, instead, carried a bright red traditional ledger known as bahi-khata in Hindi.

Her chief economic adviser Krishnamurthy Subramanian said it symbolised a "departure from the slavery of western thought".

This is the first budget of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's second term.

Ms Sitharaman, who was previously India's defence minister, has announced several measures including a housing boost for the middle-class, incentives for new start-ups and measures to improve infrastructure.

She is the first female finance minister after Indira Gandhi who also held the portfolio in 1970-71 while she was prime minister.

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Media captionAs the Indian government prepares its latest Budget, we ask what Indians are hoping for.

The parliamentary speaker, Om Birla, made it a point to congratulate her as the first "full-time female finance minister" after she finished the speech.

However, her bold choice of budget-carrying accessory has caused a lot of chatter on Indian social media.

While there were many who lauded her commitment to Indian tradition, others ridiculed it, asking questions like why she drove to parliament in a vehicle instead of travelling there by bullock cart and asking if her speech was printed on palm leaves.

The budget briefcase, which was once described by writer Samanth Subramanian as a "giant colonial holdover, harking back to a similar budget speech that has been delivered by Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer for many decades".

However, Ms Sitharaman is not the first finance minister to depart from the briefcase.

The history of Britain's budget briefcase

India's first finance minister RK Shanmukham Chetty also carried his budget speech in a leather satchel although to be fair, it looked very much like a briefcase.

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