In his eight-and-a-half years as finance minister in different governments, P Chidambaram will present an interim budget for the first time today.
His speech will likely span 15-18 pages, and may contain proposals to tinker with indirect taxes.
He may use the occasion to highlight the UPA-II government's achievements on the fiscal and economic fronts in the last five years.
A source knowledgeable about the budget preparation process said, "There could be some relaxations on the indirect taxation front. However, Chidambaram is likely to hold forth on the achievements of the government over the last five years."
But even this is expected to prove a tough ask, given that there are not many achievements against a background of falling GDP growth rate, high inflation, lower investments and weaker industrial output.
It is learnt today's budget may not have any major proposal relating to direct taxes.
Today's budget comes amid clamour from within the Congress party for some glad tidings for the middle class in the form easing of gold import curbs and restoration of duty-free import of flat-panel TV, both of which were banned in August last year at the height of the rupee crisis.
Gold import duties were also jacked up at that time. The idea was to de-incentivise "luxury and inessential items". An import duty of 36.05% was imposed on these high-end TVs.
Experts, meanwhile, argue that the finance ministry will avoid resorting to such giveaways in the budget. "The interim budget is going to be a lacklustre affair due to its very nature. It will just be a vote on account on the expenditure side," said Rakesh Nangia, managing partner, Nangia & Company, a tax consultancy firm.
"This year, he managed the current account deficit by imposing curbs on gold imports. I don't think he will take any decision in the budget which will make the current account deficit go haywire next year. The TV decision also is unlikely to be reversed as it was also meant to boost the domestic industry," said Nangia.
GDP growth rate: a mixed bag
7% – GDP growth rate in 2004-05, when the UPA took office.
9.6% – Peak attained in 2006-07
6.7% – Slowdown deepens in 2008-09 amid polls in May 2009
9.3% --Pick-up in 2009-10 and 2010-11
6.2% – Slowdown again in 2011-12
5% – Back to 'Hindu rate of growth' in 2012-13
Below 5% – Expected growth this fiscal