- Opposition parties had challenged Budget announcement ahead of polls
- Supreme Court ruled that Budget need not be delayed
- Poll body says budget cannot have schemes specific for poll-bound state
New Delhi: The government has been allowed by the Supreme Court to present its budget just three days before voting begins in five states next month, but the Election Commission last night put out conditions. No talk of plans or work done in these states, it has advised.
“In the interest of free and fair elections and in order to maintain level playing field… no state-specific schemes shall be announced which may have the effect of influencing the electors of the five poll going states in favour of the ruling parties,” the Commission said in a letter to the government.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s speech must also not highlight “the government’s achievements in respect of the five states in any manner,” said the powerful election body.
Opposition parties say the Budget announcements could give the government an unfair advantage in the poll-bound states.
The Congress, Trinamool, Samajwadi party, Mayawati’s BSP, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) and Lalu Yadav’s RJD had met the Election Commission together to argue the case for deferring the budget. The parties had also written to President Pranab Mukherjee.
Elections will be held in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur from February 4 to March 8 and the verdict will be announced on March 11. Five years ago, when the same states were up for election, the budget was moved by the Congress-led UPA government to mid-March after voting was completed.
The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the centre can go ahead and present the budget on February 1, saying it has nothing to do with states.
“Throughout the year, there may be elections in different states, so should the centre not present the budget?” the judges questioned.
This year, the railway budget has been merged with the annual budget.