"Good economics makes for good politics. We are today at the cusp of a development explosion," begins Piyush Goyal's biography on his personalised official website, quoting himself.
He had made this statement in the past, but these words assume a great deal of significance now because in seven days — 1 February, to be precise — he will rise to present the interim "Budget", the final annual financial statement of the Narendra Modi government. Whether or not he lives up to his own words will be watched closely. This becomes even more important because within 30 days of him presenting the Union Budget, the Lok Sabha election will be announced and the contents of the Budget will have a bearing on popular mood and consequently on the election.
Regardless, Goyal has a tough task at hand, presenting this all important "interim" Budget within a week of temporarily assuming charge as finance minister. At 8.55 pm on Wednesday, Rashtrapati Bhawan issued a press communique: "The President of India, as advised by the Prime Minister, hereby directed that during the period of indisposition of Shri Arun Jaitley, Minister; the portfolios of Minister of Finance and Minister of Corporate Affairs held by him, be temporarily assigned to Shri Piyush Goyal, in addition to his existing portfolios."
Goyal now is at the helm of four important ministries — Railways, Coal, Finance and Corporate Affairs. Of these, policies and actions of Railways and Finance touch the lives of every single Indian. Goyal has worked closely with Arun Jaitley as a party leader, as an MP and as a minister. And Jaitley, for a long time, has been his friend, philosopher and guide, but temporarily stepping into Jaitley's high profile ministerial position (particularly when the government and national polity is already in election mode) is a wholly different proposition.
He will ever have the distinction of being a leader who was twice at the helm of finance ministry, that too within a year, and the first temporary additional charge minister to present the Union Budget. Before taking the reins on Wednesday, Goyal held the charge from 14 May to 22 August, 2018. In the past and since Independence, there have been situations when there was no full-time finance minister, but in almost all those circumstances it was the prime minister who took charge of the finance ministry.
Four prime ministers have presented the Union Budget due to the absence of a full-time finance minister. Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, was the first to do so in 1958-59 when he held the finance portfolio after TT Krishnachari was forced to resign on account of the Mundra Scandal. India Gandhi presented the Budget in 1970 after Morarji Desai resigned from the government and left the prime minister to take charge of the finance portfolio. Rajiv Gandhi presented the Budget in 1987 when he briefly (from January to July 1987) held the finance portfolio after he sacked VP Singh. Desai held the finance ministry portfolio as prime minister and presented two Budgets (between 1977 and 1979).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to a different route. Although his stamp is going to be all over the interim Budget, he gave the 54-year old chartered accountant by training, Goyal, an opportunity to be temporarily at the helm of the finance ministry.
Goyal's rise up the BJP ranks is noteworthy. He is the son of prominent BJP leader, Vedprakash Goyal, who had been shipping minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and also party treasurer. Goyal Jr was made Rajya Sabha MP and in May 2014, he was given charge of the power ministry by Modi under difficult circumstances: It was the peak of the summer when the ministry was facing a severe energy supply crisis. The first-time minister rose to the occasion and succeeded in electrifying villages across the country and used technology to monitor the quantum of energy supply, disruption and transmission in all parts of the country. This information was made accessible to the public, so that any false claims could be questioned.
In September 2017, he was elevated to the Cabinet and given a politically and socially significant ministry, Railways. While he was minister of coal and mines, he had introduced a transparent system of auctioning and Modi didn't want to disturb administration in the ministry, so he was allowed to stay on as in-charge of the ministry. Given Goyal's understanding of economic matters, Modi saw thought it fit to give him ad hoc charge of the finance ministry on both the occasions when Jaitley was indisposed.
Goyal had impressed Vajpayee and LK Advani and shared a close personal rapport with them. Later, he won the confidence of Modi and Amit Shah in the run-up of 2012 Gujarat Assembly election and 2014 Lok Sabha polls. He had been treasurer of the party and, as many say, continues to informally handle that role because no full-time treasurer succeeded him in the party.
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Updated Date: Jan 24, 2019 18:24:58 IST