Life for FM not easy: Pranab, invokes Shakespeare

FM invokes Shakespeare in Budget speech

 New Delhi: "I must be cruel only to be kind."  Invoking Shakespeare in his Budget speech with these famous words, Pranab Mukherjee on Friday tried to soften the impact of some economic decisions, saying some "painful" policy measures which are good in the long run have to be taken by the Finance Minister whose life is "not easy."

"Economic policy, as in medical treatment, often requires us to do something, which in the short run, may be painful, but is good for us in the long run. As Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, has said in Shakespeare's immortal words, 'I must be cruel only to be kind.'"

 Though 76-year-old Mukherjee's 110-minute speech marked by deft use of words had a rocky start with BJP, Left and other parties protesting against the slashing of EPF rate, he had a smooth sailing thereafter with members listening to him in rapt attention.

Before beginning with his tax announcements, Mukherjee reached out to the Opposition.

"The life of a finance minister is not easy. Various players, including policy makers, politicians, agriculturists and business houses, participate in the making of the economy.

When everything goes well with the economy, we all share in the joy. However, when things go wrong, it is the Finance Minister who is called upon to administer the medicine," Mukherjee said.

 Similarly, before announcing an increase in Service Tax he gave reasons on the need for doing so.

 "At the end of June this year, this tax will attain adulthood by completing 18 years. It is therefore time to shift gears and accelerate ahead," Mukherjee said.

While giving service tax exemption on copyrights relating to recording of cinematographic films, Mukherjee drew applause when he said, "Despite the change in titles from Dada Saheb Phalke's "Raja Harishchandra" to "Ra.One" in recent times, the industry has played a pivotal role in unifying our country in the wake of her considerable diversity."

At one point, when Mukherjee announced a tax relief on bicycles, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi was heard enquiring from Home Minister P Chidambaram about the issue.

 Mukherjee's speech, however, began with disruptions from the opposition parties which were demanding rollback of the decision to slash EPF rate to 8.25 per cent.

 As soon as Mukherjee began his budget speech, leaders of the Left parties led by Basudev Acharia and Gurudas Dasgupta as well as BJP members--led by Deputy Leader of the party Gopinath Munde and Murli Manohar Joshi--were on their feet and protested against slashing of the return on Employee Provident Fund savings from 9.50 per cent to 8.25 per cent.

 Other opposition members joined in as Mukherjee continued with his speech. When the din continued, Mukherjee waved and pleaded with folded hands with the members to maintain calm.

 Speaker Meira Kumar intervened, asking the members to perform their Constitutional duty" and not disturb the proceedings. Mukherjee then said he is re-starting his speech as some words had not been heard in the chaos.

 However, around 25 minutes into his speech, the mikes went silent and members protested they could not hear Mukherjee. Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and BJP member Yashwant Sinha requested the minister to again read out the last few lines.