Bahi-khata vs Budget Briefcase: 10 things to know

Departing from a British tradition passed on to India, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman carried a 'bahi khata' (ledger) instead of a briefcase.

Here’s a lowdown on the tradition of carrying Budget briefcase:

1. ‘Budget’ originates from the French word Bougette, which means leather briefcase

2. Carrying the Budget briefcase is a tradition been handed over from the British.

3. The Budget briefcase is the Indian equivalent of the ‘Gladstone box’ used in the British budget.


4. In 1860, the then British budget chief William E Gladstone used a red suitcase with Queen’s monogram embossed in gold to carry his bundle of papers. It came to be known as ‘Gladstone Box’

5. Gladstone’s speeches were extraordinarily long and thus he needed a briefcase to carry his speech papers, dubbed Gladstone’s box.

6. The original Gladstone bag was officially retired from British service in 2010.

In this combo of two images is seen present Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (R), and former finance minister Arun Jaitley,
outside the North Block ahead of the presentation of Union Budget in 2019 and 2018 respectively.

7. Unlike in Britain, different Finance Ministers in India carry different Budget briefcases. In Britain, only one briefcase is passed on from one finance minister to another.

8. On Budget day, the Indian Finance Minister poses with the Budget briefcase outside the Parliament. On July 5, 2019, however, FM Nirmala Sitharaman ditched the British tradition of carrying a briefcase and adopted an Indian tradition. She carried the budget documents in a four-fold red cloth (bahi-khata) with the national emblem on it, wrapped with a ribbon.

9. India’s first FM RN Shanmukham Chetty carried a leather portfolio to present the first Budget in 1947.

10. Beginning 1970 onwards, Indian FMs started carrying a hardbound briefcase.

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