Election Commission of India (ECI) on 23 January 2017 gave its nod the Union Government to present the Union Budget 2017-18 on 1 February 2017. This go-ahead by the ECI means that the budget will be presented ahead of the Assembly elections in 5 states of India, namely Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa.
Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa will be held between 4 February and 8 March 2017. Counting of votes will take place on 11 March 2017.
In its notification, the commission said that no schemes related to these poll-bound states can be announced. The notification also bars the finance minister from referring the government’s achievements in these states in his budget speech.
Highlights of ECI decision
• In the interest of free and fair elections and to maintain level playing field, no state-specific schemes shall be announced as it may influence voters in the poll-bound states.
• Finance Minister's speech should not highlight the government's achievements in respect of the five states in any manner.
Earlier, the opposition parties had written to the President and the Election Commission demanding suspension of budget date. They had an objection to the Union Government’s decision to present the Union Budget on 1 February ahead of the Assembly elections in five states.
The budget session of Parliament has already been convened from 31 January 2017 when the President will address the joint sitting of the two Houses. Union Budget and the Economic Survey are slated to be presented the next day.
Earlier on the same day, the Supreme Court had dismissed a plea seeking postponement of Union Budget presentation ahead of the Assembly elections. The court in its decision said that there was no illustration that it will influence voters. The petition sought to direct the Centre to present the Union Budget 2017-18 on 1 April 2017 instead of the proposed 1 February 2017.