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Election Commission seeks Centre's response on Oppn protest over timing of Budget

New Delhi: Acting on Opposition complaint, the Election Commission has sought the Centre's response on their objection to presenting the budget on 1 February before the Assembly polls to five states.

Last year, the Election Commission had approached the government to buy nearly 14 lakh new electronic voting machines. Reuters.

Representational image. Reuters.

Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi has written to Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha who is likely to consult the the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry before framing his response on the government's plans to advance the budget presentation to 1 February, sources said.

The Commission had on Friday forwarded a letter of the opposition parties, including Congress, TMC, BSP and SP, asking the government to postpone the presentation of the budget to at least till 8 March, when the last of the votes will be cast for the polls to UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa.

The Cabinet Secretary has been asked to respond by 10 January.

Sources said the government is on a firm wicket on the issue and as per rules and procedures, there is no infirmity in preponing the session which usually begins in the third week of February.

The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs had recently recommended that the budget session will commence on 31 January and the Union Budget will be presented on 1 February so that the new provisions come into force from 1 April, the beginning of the new fiscal.

"When the opposition had objected in 2012 during the Assembly polls to these five states, Congress had accepted their stand and postponed presentation of the Union Budget from February 28 to March 16. We want that there should be no presentation of the budget till the elections are over," Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad had said after meeting EC on 5 January.

Azad said electoral laws make it clear that the ruling party should have no advantage during elections and both the opposition and the ruling side should be on an equal footing.

He said the budget on 1 February will tilt the balance in favour of BJP as it would use the exercise to influence voters by doling out sops.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has defended the move asking why the opposition parties are afraid of it when they have claimed that demonetisation is an unpopular decision.

Sixteen parties had written to the President and EC opposing the decision to have an early budget session beginning 31 January.

For full coverage of Union Budget 2017 click here.

Updated Date: Jan 14, 2017 20:46 PM

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