Stop Budget Before Elections, Opposition To Ask Election Commission Today

A day after elections were announced in five states, opposition parties have united in their effort to have the budget, slotted for February 1, rescheduled. The Congress, Trinamool, Samajwadi Party, Mayawati’s BSP, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United and Lalu Yadav’s RJD are set to meet the Election Commission.

“Subject : budget date too close to polls,” tweeted Trinamool Congress lawmaker Derek O’Brien.

Elections will be held in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur from February 4, less than 72 hours after the budget is announced. The results will be declared on March 11. Opposition parties say the budget must be presented well after the results, or the government can sway voters with populist announcements.

Nasim Zaidi, who heads the Election Commission, confirmed yesterday that that it has been asked to stop the government from sharing its budget before the elections are held.

In 2012, when the same states were up for election, the budget, usually shared on the last working day in February, was moved to mid-March after voting was completed.

“The Election Commission has a mandate that they should not allow any situation in which the conduct of free and fair elections is subverted,” said Congress leader Anand Sharma.

The ruling BJP, however, says there is no reason to postpone the budget as “every year, some election or the other takes place.”

“Even in 2014, the budget was presented before the polls,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday.

The government decided to advance the date of the general budget to ensure proposals take effect from April 1.

The first part of the budget session of parliament will start on January 31 when the government is expected to present the Economic Survey, which sets the tone for the budget.

The cabinet decided last September to merge the railway budget with the annual budget, ending a nearly century-long practice.