Nine days from declaration of interim budget, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal will fill in for Arun Jaitley who is being treated in the US, and Goyal will be taking temporary charges as chief the Finance and Corporate Affairs ministries.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has undergone a surgery in New York after the completion of parliament’s winter session and has been advised to rest for next two weeks, signalling that his return could be delayed and might not be able to attend the interim budget. Just over a week ahead of the interim budget scheduled on February 1st, President Ram Nath Kovind has appointed Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal as the interim Financial Minister and he will temporarily handle the functioning of both Finance and Corporate Affairs ministries, in addition to his existing duties.
The notice issued from the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Wednesday also states that Jaitley has been designated as “Minister without portfolio” for indefinite time, until he is able to “resume” work. For Piyush Goyal, finance ministry is not an unknown territory as he has filled in for Jaitley for almost three months when the Union finance minister underwent a kidney transplant surgery last year. Hence, with the temporary duties, Goyal might be presenting the interim budget on February 1, which will then traditionally be approved in April till a new government is in place and the new government presents a fresh budget.
But in words of Jaitley, “the economy was facing challenges that really can’t afford to wait and therefore obviously there will be a necessity to address them”. It signals that this year, the government might depart from the traditional norms of interim budget and make key announcements in tax exemption, agricultural and farmer loan sectors – perhaps, in absence of Arun Jaitley.