A file photo of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (centre). (Photo: Reuters)
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Govt Tells EC Advancing Union Budget Not a Pre-Poll Tactic

The government on Tuesday replied to the Election Commission on the opposition complaint against presenting the Union Budget days before the Assembly elections, defending its decision to advance the Budget session.

The Cabinet Secretariat on Tuesday wrote to the Election Commission, which had asked it to respond to a representation by Opposition parties urging the poll panel to make the government postpone the Budget till the Assembly polls are over.

The government is learnt to have described the Union Budget as an annual constitutional exercise covering the entire country and not just a few states, an apparent rebuttal of the Opposition charge that the Budget will be used to woo voters in the poll-bound states.

It has also said that the advancing of the Budget presentation was necessary as it would ensure that all budgetary provisions are allocated to different sectors from 1 April, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

The Budget is usually presented around the last week of February and, as a result, the approval of the Budget spills over to the next financial year, delaying the start of new programmes.

The Budget session has already been convened from 31 January, when the President will address the joint sitting of the two Houses. The Union Budget and the Economic Survey are slated to be presented the next day.

Earlier, the government, while defending the move to advance the Budget session, had said that parliamentary committees have already been asked to study budgetary proposals in the recess period between 10 February and 8 March.

It said that the government had made its intentions clear to advance the session last September last and the Union Cabinet had also cleared the proposal.

The Opposition had written to the President and the Election Commission objecting to the presentation of the Union Budget on 1 February ahead of the Assembly elections in five states and demanded that the government be asked to defer the annual exercise till 8 March, the last day of voting.

A delegation of opposition parties comprising the Congress, JD(U), BSP, SP, DMK and RJD had met Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi on 5 January to press that the government be asked to defer the Budget presentation till at least 8 March.

Punjab and Goa will go to polls on 4 February and the last phase of Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh and Manipur will be held on 8 March.