The Election Commission on Monday cleared the decks for the central government to present the Budget 2017 on February 1, but barred it from announcing any schemes for the five poll-bound states.
The poll panel also specified that the Finance Minister’s speech should not refer to the government’s achievements in these states either.
In a letter addressed to the Cabinet Secretary, the EC said 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 states where assembly elections have been announced.
The government has advanced the presentation of the annual budget to February 1, instead of the usual practice of presenting it on the last day of February.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court (SC) rejected a plea for deferring the Union Budget 2017-18, in view of assembly polls in five states, holding that the presentation has to be done before the start of the financial year (FY) — from April 1 — and not during the FY.
Rejecting the plea, the SC observed: “If there is something that the Centre does that affects elections in the states then the Election Commission would come into the picture.”
Assembly elections in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur are scheduled to be held between February 4 and March 8.