January 4, 2017 5:36:15 am
THE BJP-LED government and the Opposition are heading for another showdown — this time over the government’s decision to advance the Union Budget. Sixteen Opposition parties, including the Congress, have written to President Pranab Mukherjee and to the Chief Election Commissioner claiming that the move to advance the Budget is an attempt to influence the assembly elections in five states including Uttar Pradesh.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) decided today that the Budget Session will begin from January 31, with the Economic Survey to be tabled on the first day and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to present the Budget the next day, on February 1. This means the Budget Session would be advanced by about three weeks. The Budget Session usually begins in the third week of February, with the Budget being presented on February 28.
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In their joint letter sent earlier this week, the Opposition parties have questioned the NDA government’s intent, saying the government could announce populist schemes in the middle of the election campaign in order to influence voters. Stating that this would come in the way of free and fair elections, the parties have said the government should be stopped from advancing the Budget Session.
They have pointed out that the UPA government, in 2012, deferred the Union Budget to March 16 when the same five states — Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur — went to polls.
Among those who have signed the letter are Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury, SP’s Ram Gopal Yadav and JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav.
“All the Opposition parties have opposed it because the functioning of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government is marked by authoritarianism and arbitrariness, with scant respect for parliamentary precedents and practices. The Opposition was not even consulted. A similar situation had arisen in 2012, when elections were to be held in the same states. And the presentation of Budget, on the demand of the then principal Opposition party, was deferred, respecting the correctness of democratic traditions and the need of fairness of elections,” said Congress Deputy Leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma.
He said an early Budget was aimed at unfairly influencing the electoral verdict. “This government, having looted people’s money, will now show some largesse and try to influence electoral verdict. The mandate of the EC is to ensure free and fair elections. This move of the government will actually subvert that mandate and the fairness of the elections. We have cited past precedents,” he said.
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