Home / Politics / Policy /  Cloud over budget date as EC yet to decide

New Delhi: It’s still not confirmed that the Union budget will be presented on 1 February. On Thursday, the Election Commission (EC) asked the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government to give details of the procedure followed by the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) administration to delay the presentation of the union budget in 2012.

In a letter to the cabinet secretariat on Wednesday, the EC sought a response from the government by Friday. According to the Press Trust of India (PTI), EC has also asked for details on the process involved in preparing and presenting the union budget. In 2012, after opposition parties objected to the presentation of budget during the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa, the then UPA government postponed the presentation of the union budget from 28 February to 16 March.

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In an earlier letter written by the cabinet secretariat to EC on 10 January, the government said that the budget date was decided in advance of the poll schedule announcement and dismissed allegations that it was done with an eye on the elections.

NDA has maintained that the government had sought the election commission’s approval before deciding to advance the budget date by a month to 1 February and is of the view that there is no need for a change on account of elections to the states. The 10-day long budget session is scheduled to commence on 31 January and continue till 9 February; the budget will be presented on 1 February.

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The NDA and the opposition led by Congress have been at odds on the issue, with the latter lobbying for postponing the budget on grounds that it could contain incentives and sops that influence voters. Elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur are to be held between 4 February and 8 March, with the counting of votes scheduled for 11 March.

Several opposition parties have come together to demand a change in the budget dates. Senior leaders of opposition parties including the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Janata Dal (United), Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal met chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi on 5 January and demanded that the budget date be reviewed as announcements in it could have an “undue influence" on voters. EC then sought the cabinet secretary’s view on the issue.

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