EC seeks Centre's response on Oppn protest over Budget timing

NEW DELHI
7 Jan 2017

Acting on Opposition complaint, the Election Commission has sought the Centre's response on their objection to presenting the budget on February 1 before the Assembly polls to five states.

Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi has written to Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha who is likely to consult the the Parliamentary affairs ministry before framing his response on the government's plans to advance the budget presentation to February 1, sources said. The Commission had on Friday forwarded a letter of the Opposition parties, including Congress, TMC, BSP and SP, asking the government to postpone the presentation of the budget to at least till March 8, when the last of the votes will be cast for the polls to UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa. The cabinet secretary has been asked to respond by January 10.

Sources said the government is on a firm wicket on the issue and as per rules and procedures, there is no infirmity in preponing the session which usually begins in the third week of February. The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) had recently recommended that the Budget session will commence on January 31 and the Union Budget will be presented on February 1 so that the new provisions come into force from April 1, the beginning of the new fiscal. "When the opposition had objected in 2012 during the Assembly polls to these five states, Congress had accepted their stand and postponed presentation of the Union Budget from February 28 to March 16. We want that there should be no presentation of the Budget till the elections are over," Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad had said after meeting EC on January 5.

Azad said electoral laws make it clear that the ruling party should have no advantage during elections and both the opposition and the ruling side should be on an equal footing.

He said the Budget on February 1 will tilt the balance in favour of BJP as it would use the exercise to influence voters by doling out sops. Union finance minister Arun Jaitley has defended the move asking why the opposition parties are afraid of it when they have claimed that demonetisation is an unpopular decision. Sixteen parties had written to the President and EC opposing the decision to have an early Budget session.

The Budget session of Parliament was today convened to start from January 31, a day before the Union Budget is likely to be presented.  President Pranab Mukherjee has summoned the Rajya Sabha to meet on January 31, an official notification said. A similar notification is also expected from the Lok Sabha secretariat. While the session will begin with the President's address to the joint sitting of the two Houses, the same day the pre- budget economic survey will be tabled. The practice of separate railway budget presentation is being scrapped from this year. The railway estimates will be part of the Union budget.