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Arun Jaitley defends Union Budget just before assembly elections

With rivals opposing presentation of Union Budget before polls, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday defended the move and asked why are the opponents afraid of it when they also claim demonetisation is an unpopular decision.

“These are the those political parties which say that popularity of demonetization is very low. So, why they are afraid of the Budget,” Jaitley told reporters here. When asked about the presentation of the Budget in March 2012 after the elections in states, including 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.”

With a view to start spending on welfare and other scheme right from Day 1 of the fiscal year, the government has shed long-standing tradition of presenting the Budget on the last day of February.

It yesterday decided to convene the Budget session of Parliament from January 31 and present the Budget for 2017-18 fiscal the very next day. Punjab and Goa go to polls on February 4, followed by elections in three more states, including Uttar Pradesh. Some political parties have gone to President and the Election Commission against February 1 budget.

Political parties including Congress, Left, Samajwadi Party and BSP have voiced reservation against the move as they feel budget may be used to announce sops to influence voters. Jaitley said starting expenditure early is one of the objectives behind advancing the Budget as following previous year patterns led to spending beginning after monsoon months. “The actual expenditure must start from April rather than half the year being lost and starting after the monsoons. That is the whole object of this exercise and we stand by that exercise,” he said.