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Assembly Election 2017: Union Budget is legally no constraint to state polls

With the announcement of election dates in five states on Wednesday, that includes Uttar Pradesh, which has more than 400 assembly constituencies, the Model Code of Conduct has come into force.

While the Model Code of Conduct generally tends to regulate the campaigning of the political parties and candidates that include speeches and expenditure made by candidates to further their electoral prospects, some doubts were raised that whether the central government's bid to roll out the Union Budget early this year will also fall under the Election Commission (EC) scanner and would have to be rescheduled.

Poll time. PTI

Poll time. PTI

As reported by The Indian Express, while casting serious aspersion on the Union government’s decision to advance the Union Budget, sixteen political parties, including the Congress, have written to President Pranab Mukherjee and to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Naseem Zaidi claiming that the decision to advance the budget is an indirect move to hold sway in the upcoming assembly elections by the ruling BJP-led NDA government. Also as reported by ANI the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has also urged the government to defer the date of the Union Budget, "in favour of clean and fair elections".

While opposition parties are raking this issue, some former top bureaucrats and election commission functionaries hold a different view.

Speaking to Firstpost on this issue former home secretary and secretary, justice Madhav Godbole said, "Firstly I think since the elections to state legislatures and Parliament has been segregated one should draw a line and accept that whatever government of India is doing within the ambit of law it should be permitted to do, irrespective of the fact that there are elections in one state or another. Elections take place year round across the country because terms of most of the legislatures do not synchronise. So you cannot say the activities of the central government and especially important events like Union Budget should be decided on the basis of elections in the state."

The former bureaucrat, however, said that the budgetary reform was long due.

"In any case, I do not agree with the notion that anything said in the budget influences the budget in a state. I think it was a long overdue reform that is being done now by bringing forward the date of presentation of the annual financial statement. Now that it is being done it should be supported and adhered to," he said.

While there is much noise being made regarding the advancing of the budget, the experts see it as a 'much awaited and necessary' reform. Once a date has been fixed, Godbole said that "it should not be influenced whether the elections are going to be held in one state or another."

Former chief election commissioner VS Sampath pointed out that there is a difference as one is a national event while the others are concerned about particular states.

"As far as model code of conduct is concerned, it does not interfere with the functioning of the legislature or the judiciary. At the time of the last parliamentary election, when the dates of state budget and election were clashing in some states, the Election Commission sent out an advisory to the states that the two are not connected and the states should go for a vote-on-account budget. But this situation is different since it's a national budget and states are going to poll, the model code of conduct does not interfere with the functioning of the legislature," Sampath said.

Another former chief election commissioner N Gopalaswami was not in favour of any constraints to the Union Budget.

"It is always understood that the Union Budget cannot be constrained because of the state. There are two types of gains for the aam aadmi in the budget. Firstly, supposing they reduce the income tax for everybody, but that will be at the level of the nation. Secondly, if they introduce advantages for a separate state, like a new railway line. Whether the poll-going state should be part of the Union Budget is a matter that can be discussed by the Election Commission and the government. Also, why should the vision be constrained to the states going to poll immediately, a budget can affect other states going to poll a couple of months later as well. Hence, a once in a five-year election and budget is a much better idea," Gopalaswami said.

For full coverage of Union Budget 2017 click here.

Updated Date: Jan 14, 2017 21:30 PM

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