As the finance minister finalises his budget proposals, an open letter to calm his worries about the fiscal deficit and some suggestions to establish himself as the biggest reformer of all. By Vivek Sharma
"Dear Mr Mukherjee,
"In recent days, most commentators have been lecturing you on how to rein in the fiscal deficit.
"I am sure you must be very annoyed with this free advice, which you never sought in the first place. After all, you were the finance minister of this country when many of these commentatots were in their knickers. Back then, the concept of fiscal deficit was considered so trivial that you didn't even bother to compute it!
"In any case, you didn't start the raging fire the fiscal problem has now become. It was that smooth-talking, Harvard educated lawyer, your predecessor, who started it all by allocating huge sums to dig ditches all over our verdant countryside in the name of job creation. Not content with that, he also forgave the debt of anyone who claimed to be a farmer and had a bank loan in his name which was overdue.
"Not to forget, when oil prices went through the roof, he was large-hearted enough to save the urban middle class from the discomfort of public transport and the daily jog to the nearby forest to collect firewood. Imagine the horror of Mumbaikars like me having to trudge to the leopard-infested Borivali National Park everyday in search of firewood!
"Your predecessor then found the smoke-screen of oil bonds to hide the expense. He kept insisting that he will stick to the fiscal targets at any cost and, the consummate lawyer he is, argued that anyone who didn't believe this fantasy is challenged in some way. It is not your fault that he was bluffing. We should have known; he is a lawyer after all!