While all eyes were on Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's maiden Budget, what grabbed the eyeballs was that she dropped the traditional leather briefcase for a red cloth-wrapped ledger or a traditional bahi-khata. It created quite a stir on social media. However, the Finance Minister revealed at an India Today event that she doesn't even know what a bahi-khata is.
Speaking at the India Today Budget Roundtable on Monday, Nirmala Sitharamn said, "Even till this day I don't know how to pronounce bahi-khata and I also have no idea what bahi-khata is."
When asked about why did she not follow tradition and carry the leather briefcase, Sitharaman said, "I changed it because the suitcase immediately gave me a negative connotation. I knew this government was never about the briefcase business."
She said that she wanted to get over the colonial hangover and felt that the Budget was a sacred document. I felt the Budget was a sacred document and how we keep our books in front of the gods at the start of the year, I felt this should be the case with Budget as well," she added.
The Finance Minister further added that this book maintained the expenditures of the government and she wanted this to be equally sacred.
Traditionally Budget documents including the minister's speech copy, finance bill and some other papers have always been carried in a brown briefcase. It has been a legacy passed on by the British.
The minister also said that the briefcase had Elizabeth II Regina's initials etched on it. "It no longer holds any ground in India, so why keep carrying a briefcase," said the minister.
The event that took place on Monday saw some eminent personalities such as Uday Kotak, Sanjiv Goenka, Chandrajit Banerjee, Samiran Chakraborty, Ajit Ranade and Ila Patnaik in attendance.