A united opposition today mounted more pressure on the Narendra Modi government over the timing of presentation of Union Budget demanding that it be presented after March 8 when polling for assembly elections in five states will culminate. A delegation of opposition parties including TMC, Samajwadi Party, BSP, JDU, RJD met Election Commission this morning to present their views on the issue. “We demand that budget be presented after March 8, which is when polling for elections will be over,” Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said after meeting EC in Delhi. Azad claimed that ‘populist measures could be taken in budget’, ‘so a just and fair election can’t be held’. With Congress remaining unrelenting in its attack on the central government over its plans to present the Union Budget on February 1, three days prior to the start of voting in assembly elections in five states, TMC also joined the chorus.
“Opposition parties including TMC, Samajwadi Party, BSP, JDU, RJD to meet Election Commission at 11 am today on budget date being too close to polls,” TMC Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien has said. “It is clear that the government will misuse the budget presentation and try to allure the voters just before polls,” senior party leader Anand Sharma said.
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The Election Commission is already examining the representation of various political parties for not allowing the presentation of the Union Budget during the poll process of five states and will take a call on it soon.
With rivals opposing presentation of Union Budget before polls, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has defended the move and asked why are the opponents afraid of it when they also claim demonetisation is an unpopular decision. “These are the those political parties which say that popularity of demonetisation is very low. So, why they are afraid of the Budget,” Jaitley told reporters yesterday. When asked about the presentation of the Budget in March 2012 after the elections in states, including Uttar Pradesh, he said, “This is not a tradition (for following) everytime.” “Interim budget is presented just before Lok Sabha elections. No one has stopped that. Even in 2014, interim budget was presented some days before the general elections. This is a constitutional necessity.”
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Notably, in 2012, the UPA government had decided to present the Union Budget for 2012-13 after Assembly elections in these states. “We have not yet decided the time, but naturally the Budget will be presented after the elections,” then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had said.