As the Election Commission announced poll schedule for five states, opposition parties on Wednesday raised objections to the planned Union Budget presentation on February 1, saying it was meant to woo voters for BJP with sops.
While the Election Commission said it will examine a representation made by parties opposing the February 1 Budget plan, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley defended the move asking why Opposition parties are afraid of it when they have claimed that demonetisation is an unpopular decision.
Parties including Congress, Left, SP and BSP have written to the Election Commission and the President opposing the advancing of the budget presentation to February 1 before the polls.
The parties say that this would give an unfair advantage to BJP and its allies as the Centre could announce sops to influence voters.
"It is a collective and serious concern of the Opposition parties that advancing the presentation of budget to February 1 will provide an opportunity to the government to make populist announcements to influence voters,” Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said in a letter to Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi.
"This will not only give unfair advantage to the ruling party but will also undermine the process of free and fair elections. It is therefore demanded that in view of the forthcoming elections and the precedent of 2012, the advancement of the presentation of the budget should not be allowed," the letter said.
The CEC said the Commission is examining the representation of parties for not allowing the presentation of the Union Budget during the poll process and will take a call on it soon.
"The Commission has received one representation sent by some political parties. This representation is with regards to presentation of the budget. The Commission is examining this representation and in due course of time will take a call on this," he told reporters when asked about the issue.
Reacting to the Opposition demand, Jaitley said, "These are those political parties which say that popularity of demonetisation is very low. So why they are afraid of the Budget."
When asked about the presentation of the budget in March 2012 after the elections, including in Uttar Pradesh, he said "This is not a tradition (for following) everytime."
"Interim budget is presented just before Lok Sabha elections. No one has stopped that. Even in 2014, interim budget was presented some days before the general elections. This is a constitutional necessity," he said.
BSP supremo Mayawati said the EC should instruct the central government not to present the General Budget on February 1 and just as 2012, it be presented only after the completion of polling on March 8.
"Voters can be influenced through the Budget and thereby free and fair elections can be effected," she feared.
Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh also flayed the Modi government's decision to announce the Union Budget before the assembly elections as a blatant violation of political and electoral norms.
In a statement, he said the move was manifestly aimed at minimising the negative impact of demonetisation on the poll prospects of BJP.
Naresh Agrawal, who was recently expelled by Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh in the midst of feud within the ruling party of Uttar Pradesh, insisted the EC to see the budget session announced by the central government be postponed to ensure that the voters do not get influenced.
BJP ally and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray also opposed the move and appealed to President not to allow presentation of Budget before the polls saying the Union Government might use it to lure voters.
"By making attractive announcements in Budget, government can grab votes indirectly," Thackeray said, addressing a statewide gathering of Sena workers here.
The Sena president asked his party MPs to meet the President and request him to postpone the Budget beyond polls.
(With PTI inputs)