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With Arun Jaitley advised at least two weeks’ rest after a surgery at a New York hospital on Tuesday, the interim budget ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls would be presented next week by Piyush Goyal, currently minister of Railways and Coal, who has been given the finance portfolio for the time being.

President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday, Jan 23, allocated the finance ministry portfolio to Piyush Goyal and designated Jaitley as a minister without portfolio.

A communiqué from Rashtrapati Bhavan issued late last evening said: “The President of India, as advised by the Prime Minister hereby directed that during the period of indisposition of Shri Arun Jaitley, Minister the portfolios of Minister of Finance and Minister of Corporate Affairs held by him, be temporarily assigned to Shri Piyush Goyal, in addition to his existing portfolios.”

Goyal was in charge of finance ministry between mid-May and August when Jaitley underwent a kidney transplant at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in the national capital. He returned to the ministry on August 23.

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.

Jaitley left for the US for medical treatment after the conclusion of the winter session. He was earlier expected to be back by later this week, so that he could present the vote on account, scheduled on February 1.

He was also assigned a key role in the build up to the Lok Sabha election and the BJP recently appointed Jaitley as in charge of publicity for the upcoming polls.

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

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

This year, the Modi government, as is its wont, is likely to break the norm usually followed for proprietary reasons and go ahead to use it for announcing some pre-poll sops in the interim budget.

Speculation started after Jaitley, in an interview last week, said the economy was facing challenges that “really can’t afford to wait and therefore obviously there will be a necessity to address them”.

“Ordinarily there’s no reason why we should move away from that convention,” Jaitley said. He however added that “the larger interest of the economy always dictates what goes into an interim budget.”

There are expectations that a possible departure will include key announcements for the farm sector. For the middle class, the government is reportedly planning to increase the income tax exemption limit.

Traditionally, an interim budget gets parliament’s approval for expenses for the financial year starting in April till a new government is in place. The incoming government presents a fresh budget for the rest of the financial year.

The parliament will meet from January 31 to February 13 for the budget session.

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