Talking About the Budget

What did people expect from this interim budget? How did they react to it? We build a word cloud that reveals all.

The Interim Budget for financial years 2019-20, presented last week by Piyush Goyal, was keenly followed by social media as well as elsewhere. Interim budgets tend to be shorter than regular ones, and thus cover only partial ground. For example, budget speeches given by Arun Jaitley over the past three years have been around 35 pages long, whereas the interim budget speech presented by Piyush Goyal was only 21 pages long.

However, the expectations from the budget rarely seem to vary by their length. In the run-up to the presentation of the interim budget, there was talk of changes in direct tax policies, among others. In a previous analysis, we dived deeper into the text of the budget speech to understand the focus areas of the government. This time instead, we decided to look at the responses to the budget speech in real time by analysing tweets from commentators, the common man, and pretty much anyone else who was tweeting with the hashtag #Budget2019 or #BudgetSession2019. We chose these two hashtags on the basis of the most activity on Twitter just before, during, and after the budget was presented.

We make use of the qualitative analysis tool NVivo to conduct word analysis to determine what is being discussed most and what are the most prominent themes emerging from the reactions to the Interim Budget 2019. Using its novel social media capture tool, NCapture, all tweets from 10 AM to 6 PM IST were recorded. This period was selected to include both pre-budget “expectations” as well as live reactions as the budget was being presented, and a few hours after the budget had been presented. The latter is particularly important since most analysts (especially those tweeting as experts) may be reacting to specific budget documents that get uploaded after the budget speech has concluded.

There were more than 10,000 tweets during this period that used the hashtags we followed. Before and during the budget speech, the most common mentions were of the word “expect” (particularly before the speech commenced), “farmers” and “tax”. There was also a substantial share of tweets that touted it as the “last” budget of the Narendra Modi-led government. Interestingly, the hashtag “budgetfornewindia” was used consistently alongside the budget hashtags. The hashtag appears to have come from party members of the ruling BJP or other ministers from the NDA government tweeting about the budget (including Piyush Goyal himself).

After the budget speech concluded, #budgetfornewindia continued to feature prominently (in nearly 2% of all tweets). As one would expect, the biggest reform announced in the Interim Budget, the changes to “income tax” were discussed the most, followed by tweets about farmers or the middle class. A new hashtag, perhaps to counter the popularity of the BJP-led hashtag also emerged: #aakhrijumlabudget, again predominantly used by INC members and members of the opposition.

Interestingly, when we analysed the popular sentiment toward the budget, the words sad, bad, terrible returned no queries at all; the word unfortunate returned one tweet. Other words like questionable (or their synonyms) featured in just under 2% of all tweets captured. In contrast, there were more tweets that had the word (or a synonym of) “excellent”; while during specific intervals, nearly 5% of all tweets had the word “amazing” or similar. Words like “great” featured in around 7% of all tweets during a one-hour interval.

Having eliminated other common words (such as tweet, the hashtags themselves, the handle for Minister of State for Finance, Piyush Goyal), #budgetfornewindia was the top word used (featuring in nearly 1% of all tweets). Of the popular topics that received emphasis, the word “farmers” featured 94 times in tweets, and the word “income” featured 73 times. Similarly, the words “middle” and “class” were mentioned around 57 times in tweets, clearly alluding to the major beneficiary group from the measures proposed in the Interim Budget 2019. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was tagged frequently in tweets related to the budget as well (nearly 0.33% of all tweets mentioned him). The resulting word cloud is presented below:

This article gives a snapshot of the reactions to the interim budget, and the analysis will be replicated with the complete budget later this year. Words like “development,” “growth,” “education,” and “manufacturing” will again be on the radar, as well as popular sentiments toward the budget. Relative to the interim budget, one might expect more trending hashtags for a full union budget — mainly because it covers many more issues and takes a lot more time. The development of new hashtags and handles through the mapping of tweets provides the flip side of talk related to the budget. We know the government can walk the talk, but does everyone else?