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EC gives nod to Budget presentation on Feb 1, bars govt from announcing schemes for poll-bound states

The Election Commission today gave its go-ahead to budget presentation on February 1, despite objections from the opposition parties.
India TV Politics Desk New Delhi January 24, 2017 8:31 IST
India TV Politics Desk

The Election Commission tonight gave its nod to the Centre to present the Union Budget on February 1 ahead of the Assembly polls, but said no schemes related to these poll-bound states can be announced and the Finance Minister's speech should not refer to the government's achievements in these states. 

The EC nod came hours after the Supreme Court refused to bar the government from presenting the Union Budget on February 1, 

The poll panle also reminded the government of a 2009 advisory which said vote-on-account instead of a full fledged budget is presented ahead of elections as per convention. 

"The Commission hereby directs that 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 EC told Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha. 

It also said in the Finance Minister's speech, the government's achievements in respect of the five states "will not be highlighted in any manner." 

Polls in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Punjab and Goa will be held between February 4 and March 8. 

Earlier today, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea seeking Budget’s postponement saying there was no illustration to support that the budget would influence voters in poll-bound states.  

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the apex court seeking postponement of Union Budget on grounds of the upcoming Assembly polls in five states including politically crucial Uttar Pradesh.  

“There is no illustration to support that the presentation of Union Budget would influence voters' mind in state elections,” the Supreme Court said while dismissing the litigation. 

A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, also comprising Justices N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud, refused to admit the plea saying "there was not even a single concrete example that the presentation of Union Budget would influence the minds of electorate in state elections". 

The PIL has said the Centre be directed to present the Budget in the financial year 2017-18 which would commence from April 1, instead of the proposed February 1 date. 

The government has already said that it plans to go ahead with the presentation of the Union Budget 2017-18 on February 1, despite objections by opposition parties, but will refrain from making any specific announcements pertaining to five poll-bound states.  

Opposition parties including Congress and TMC had approached the Election Commission against presentation of the Budget just hours before the first of the five states goes to poll on February 4.   

The Election Commission had on January 4 come out with the schedule of assembly elections in five states, including Uttar Pradesh.

Punjab and Goa will go to polls together on February 4, Uttarakhand on February 15, Manipur in two phases on March 4 and 8, and Uttar Pradesh in seven phases from February 11 to March 8. Counting for all states will be held on March 11.