Goyal, fallback option whenever Jaitley is ill, interim finance minister again

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is wary of handing over the finance portfolio to any ruling party MP who is not close to Jaitley. Piyush Goyal is among the few who enjoys the indisposed minister's trust

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New Delhi: Piyush Goyal is likely to present the Budget on 1 February as he was on Wednesday given the additional charge of the finance ministry as Arun Jaitley is in the US for medical treatment. Goyal was made the interim finance minister on a previous occasion last year between 14 May and 22 August for a similar reason.

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On 14 May 2018, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley underwent a kidney transplant operation at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). After a gap of four months, Jaitley resumed the office of the Finance Minister.

This time, Jaitley went under the knife at a hospital in New York on Tuesday and has been advised at least two weeks rest by the doctors, sources said. Jaitley, who had travelled to the US on 13 January, has undergone tests for soft tissue cancer this week.

Jaitley has been designated as a minister without portfolio during the period of his indisposition or till such time when he is able to resume his work as the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Corporate Affairs.

Ahead of the interim budget scheduled to be presented on 1 February, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal has been given additional charge of Finance and Corporate Affairs ministries.

An official release from the Rashtrapati Bhavan Wednesday said the President, as advised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, directed that during the period of Jaitley’s indisposition, the portfolios of the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Corporate Affairs, held by him, be temporarily assigned to Goyal, in addition to his existing portfolios.

Goyal is likely to present the interim Budget, according to sources.
The budget comes ahead of the general elections and the government is expected to make some key announcements, including relief package for farmers, poor and sops for middle-class.

Rajya Sabha Member Goyal also holds the coal portfolio.
This for the second time that Goyal has been given the additional charge of the Finance Ministry.

Jaitley had also undergone a bariatric surgery soon after the BJP government came to power at the Centre in 2014. The surgery, to treat weight gain that he suffered because of a long-standing diabetic condition, was first performed at Max Hospital, but he then had to be shifted to AIIMS because of complications.

The ruling BJP has recently appointed Jaitley as in-charge of publicity for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Jaitley, a senior member of the ruling party, has presented five budgets of the current regime.

Why Goyal

It is said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is wary of handing over the finance portfolio to any ruling party MP who is not close to Jaitley. Goyal is among the few who enjoys the indisposed minister’s trust.

With age on his side, Goyal is likely to be the next full-time finance minister in the event of Modi-led BJP winning the 2019 general election. On the one hand, sources say, this will offer a policy continuity. On the other, with a business background, Goyal is expected to be better sensitised to market dynamics.

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