The budget has to be kept independent of the state elections and in any case the central government would be foolish to announce any scheme that will be aimed at benefitting the voters just in the poll-bound states.
The politics over the advancement of the Budget day to February 1, by the opposition parties, especially Congress, SP and BSP, are obviously aimed more at pointing out to the people the possibility of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trying to gain advantage through populist measures in the critical seven-phase Uttar Pradesh assembly election slated between February 11 and March 8, than any serious expectations of the Election Commission (EC) asking the government to change its plan.
The EC announced the dates for Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa polls to be held during February and March after the central government decided to present the Budget this year on February 1 instead of February 28 – the results for all the states will be out on March 11.
So, the Commission can only restrict the government from announcing any individual schemes directly benefitting the voters in the poll-bound states only, as the Budget can’t be made hostage to the assembly polls.
In any case, the central government would not deviate from the model code of conduct to attract unnecessary criticism for the Budget.
The more interesting point though is that even if Prime Minister Narendra Modi decides to announce measures to benefit the people to counter the adverse impact of the demonetisation of Rs 500/1000 notes, it won’t be correct to assume that it will benefit BJP in the assembly elections.
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One, the outcome of the assembly polls is dependent mostly on the local issues and voter composition; and two, recent elections have suggested that the voters look beyond the freebies and populism to vote for any party.
But, these factors will not stop the opposition parties from raising this issue in the Budget Session of Parliament starting fromJanuary 31 with the tabling of the Economic Survey on the same day.
After an almost washed out winter session, thanks to the demonetisation – the Budget session is also likely to be a stormy one.
The floor management of the ruling NDA dispensation will be tested to the full during this session in not only diffusing the opposition unity to get the GST Bills passed for its implementation before September 16, but also in getting the new format Budget, which will also include the Railway Budget, passed without much of disturbance in Parliament.