The Election Commission (EC) may allow Budget on February 1 but with few riders. According to BTVi the Budget can be presented on February 1 but no specific schemes can be unveiled for poll-bound states. Recently Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the date for presenting the Union Budget on February 1 was decided much in advance of the EC’s announcement of Punjab polls three days later, dismissing Opposition allegation that the budget was scheduled keeping in view the state elections. He said there was a practice to present the budget on February 28 but this year it would be presented on February 1.
Political parties including Congress, Left, Samajwadi Party and BSP have voiced reservations against presenting the Budget just three days ahead of the Punjab polls as they feel the budget may be used to announce sops to influence voters.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) recommended holding of the Budget Session from January 31 when the government is likely to table the Economy Survey followed by the Union Budget on February 1. But opposition parties have complained that this will give the government an unfair advantage because the budget will include populist scheme and reforms that could influence voters. This, they allege, will violate the model code of conduct that kicks in as soon as elections are announced and forbid parties in power from taking or sharing decisions that could skew voters towards them.
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The first part of the Budget Session will run till February 9. The 92-year-old practice of presenting a separate Rail Budget is going to end from this fiscal, with the Finance Ministry accepting Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s proposal to merge it with the General Budget. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has indicated that railway travel may become pricier for passengers come the next financial year. Jaitley is also set to hold pre-budget consultation with states on January 4, after the meeting of the GST Council gets over.