Union Budget 2017: Parliamentary propriety and respect for E Ahamed apart, the show must go on

Former minister of state for External Affairs Minister E Ahamed's death early on Wednesday has thrown the presentation of Budget 2017 into confusion. Ahamed, who had collapsed due to cardiac arrest during President Pranab Mukherjee's address to the joint session on Tuesday, subsequently passed away at 2.30 am on Wednesday at New Delhi's Ram Manohar Lohia hospital where he was put on life support.

The situation right now is fluid. The PMO, it is learnt, will take a call and a final decision could be arrived at the floor of the House. The 78-year-old Ahamed was a Lok Sabha MP from Malappuram, Kerala. Conventionally, the death of a sitting MP during the inter-session or the session itself causes the House to be adjourned for a day.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. AFP

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. AFP

Government sources indicate, however, that the Budget presentation which was brought forward to 1 February instead of the regular date of 28 February to enable authorization of expenditure by next fiscal, is unlikely to be delayed.

According to a report in News 18, postponement is unlikely as there has been a precedent where a Budget presentation went ahead after passing an obit reference. The government, says the report, is bent on going ahead with the schedule because all Budget papers are printed with today’s date and postponement will cause many hassles.

Technically, explains a Business Standard report, Lok Sabha can be called and mourn the death of the Ahamed and get adjourned. Then, the Budget can be presented as scheduled in the Rajya Sabha because the Malappuram MP was not the member of the Upper House.

According to Santosh Gangwar, MoS Finance, the decision will be taken by the Lok Sabha Speaker.

Aside of the Parliamentary proprieties and procedures due to the death of a sitting MP and the mourning over the loss of a life, the show must go on. The Union Budget is a momentous occasion and if there is a provision for the session to be held as scheduled after passing an obit reference, that provision must be utilized. This is not to show disrespect to the departed soul. Ahamed's unfortunate death will be condoled with all sincerity. But postponing the Budget makes little sense.

The Congress and other opposition parties have called for a postponement of the date but there seems to be an element of political one-upmanship in their demand. It is widely known that the Opposition parties were not happy with the presentation of the Budget just before the commencement of Assembly elections in five states.

We must remember that on 23 January, the Supreme Court had dismissed a public interest litigation seeking postponement of the dates. According to the apex court, there was no illustration to support that the presentation of the Budget would influence voters' mind in state elections.

A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar dismissed the arguments put forward by the PIL that the Centre may announce sops for voters of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Punjab and Goa, saying "Your argument is absurd. This way you will say the party in power at Centre should not contest state polls".

From agriculture to job creation, taxation to education, housing to tourism, banking to governance reform, digital future to growth policies, Budget is an account that touches the lives of every citizen in this 1.25 billion-strong country. Let it not fall victim to partisan politics that tries to use the unfortunate death of a sitting MP as a ruse. There will be other occasion for politics.

Updated Date: Feb 01, 2017 09:34 AM

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