January 7, 2017 5:59:24 am
THE Election Commission of India has written to Cabinet Secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha seeking the Union Government’s stand on the Opposition’s demand to postpone the Budget presentation to a day after March 8, the last date of polling in Uttar Pradesh.
According to a government official, the Cabinet Secretary has been asked to respond by January 10. The Indian Express could not reach Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi for comment.
The ECI’s missive to Sinha, a source said, aims to get the Centre’s views and reasons for rescheduling the Budget session and, therefore, the Budget presentation, before taking a decision on the matter.
The ECI’s move comes just a day after a delegation of Opposition parties met all three Election Commissioners, Zaidi, OP Rawat and AK Joti.
The delegation, led by Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Azad, had urged the poll panel to prevent the government from presenting the Union Budget on February 1, just three days before the beginning of Assembly elections in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. They argued that the government may announce populist measures to gain an unfair advantage in the elections. Elections in the five states were announced on Wednesday.
The Opposition has also sought President Pranab Mukherjee’s intervention on the issue. Azad had told reporters on Thursday that in 2012, then Opposition BJP had objected to presentation of the Budget by UPA government in the midst of the election campaign in these same five states. “The UPA accepted the Opposition’s demand and the Budget was presented on March 16 instead of February 28,” he said.
However, the Centre, at this moment, seems committed to presenting the Budget on schedule. Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday called said the Opposition’s demand “anti-people” and said that the Budget is for the country and would not be state specific.
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