I rise to present the budget for the year 1998-99.
2. This is the first budget of the Government led by Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It is a defining moment in history. It is an occasion fraught with expectation. I am very grateful to the Prime Minister for the confidence he has reposed in me and the guidance he has given me.
3. It has been just over ten weeks since this Government took office. But we know already that a new India is rising. And as May 11 was surely the first step, today is yet another. Certainly, a long journey lies ahead, but as history will prove, we have now begun to build a new India. This will be a strong and prosperous India - a nation self-reliant, but not autarchic, rather a nation keen to deal with the world as an equal partner with other countries. As the saying goes, "only the strong can be free. And only the productive can be strong". This is the new India we propose to build.
4. The dimensions of the economic challenges that confront us today have come into sharper focus since the time I presented the interim budget before this House. While the people of India have reacted with pride over the events of May 11, some of our friends abroad have responded negatively. I am confident that these initial negative responses will be moderated as our position gets better understood, and will not have any significant impact on our economic development. On our part, our policies have to be clearly directed and firm. As Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore said "You cannot cross the sea by standing and staring at the water". We intend to cross the sea and I seek the cooperation of this august House in this national endeavour in the weeks and months ahead.
5. In preparing this budget I have been guided by the famous talisman of Gandhiji. I have recalled to myself the face of the poorest and the weakest man I have seen and made sure that this budget is of use to him. This budget is rooted in Swadeshi which will be unfolded as we go along. But I shall hasten to add that Swadeshi does not mean isolation, Swadeshi means making India strong and self-reliant so that we can compete with the world and win. As our courageous Prime Minister has himself said :
Flag we hold shall never
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