New Delhi: The budget, set to be announced just three days before five states including Uttar Pradesh start voting, must be rescheduled, opposition parties said to the Election Commission today.
- Opposition parties unite to have budget, slotted for Feb 1, rescheduled
- Elections in UP, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur from Feb 4
- During 2012 polls in these states, budget was postponed till after polls
The Congress, Trinamool, Samajwadi party, Mayawati's BSP, Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) and Lalu Yadav's RJD met the Election Commission together to argue the case for deferring the budget which, they said, would give the government an unfair advantage ahead of the state elections.
"There can be no concession to any political party, this is against the constitution and the ideal of democracy. We said that to ensure fair elections, the budget must be deferred to after the election results on March 11," Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said after the meeting.
"The simple solution is to present the budget after March 8 and get it passed before March 31. We are optimistic," said Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien, who had tweeted about the meeting this morning, saying the budget date is "too close to the polls".
Elections will be held in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur from February 4 to March 8. Opposition parties say the government can sway voters with populist announcements if the budget is presented as scheduled on February 1.
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. But this was a decision taken by the Congress-led UPA government.
There has been no precedent of the Election Commission stepping in to announce any change in the budget date.
The ruling BJP 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. The cabinet decided last September to merge the railway budget with the annual budget, ending a nearly century-long practice.