There’s A Story Behind Our Finance Minister’s Briefcase Carried To The Budget Announcement

We are not going to pretend to understand anything about budgets. We write for a blog.

But we do understand briefcases. It was how, as children, we knew our parents had indeed come home from work. But like all budgets, not all briefcases are the same. And there’s one that’s definitely unlike any other.

By which we mean the briefcase that seems to accompany the Finance Minister each time the Annual Budget is announced.

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The word “budget” like most others in the English language comes from a Latin word “bulga” meaning pouch. It is also said to be derived from the French word “bougette” meaning purse.

We’ve borrowed many aspects of our governance from the British, the Union Budget and the format in which it is presented is also inspired. The British have a tradition of “Red Boxes” which are containers for official documents of both the Crown and the State.

The Budget Box similar to one of these. The first one was in fact made approximately in 1860 and was used during each Budget announcement till 1965 and then again in 1997 when new ones had to be made.


However, unlike Britain, Indian finance ministers do not hand over any particular briefcase or container, but each carries their own on Budget day.

Notable ones include the one carried by RK Shanmukham Chetty, India’s very first Finance Minister in 1947 and the bright red velvet case that Pranab Mukherjee lugged around. The idea behind it is two-fold.

Firstly, it seems official and important which might not be achieved if important documents were carried around in the jute bag we buy bhaaji in. It denotes secrecy and a visual cue that evokes tradition and authority.


The second reason is more rumored but infinitely funnier. It was because the first Budget Box was made in Britain for William Ewart Gladstone, whose speeches were infamously long. And he needed to keep those Yash Raj film length speeches in a briefcase to carry them around.

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