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Union Budget date decided much in advance of election poll schedule: Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said the date for presenting the Union Budget on February 1 was decided much in advance of the Election Commission’s announcement of Punjab polls three days later, dismissing Opposition allegation that the budget was scheduled keeping in view the state elections. He said there was a practice to present the budget on February 28 but this year it would be presented on February 1.

“The idea is to pass the Finance Bill by March 31, so that next year’s expenses could be started from April 1,” he said. Refuting the Opposition’s allegation, Jaitley said the date for presenting the budget was decided much earlier, before the announcement of Punjab polls and it would be wrong to say the date was fixed keeping Punjab elections in view. Political parties including Congress, Left, Samajwadi Party and BSP have voiced reservations against presenting the Budget just three days ahead of the Punjab polls as they feel the budget may be used to announce sops to influence voters.

Jaitley also played down the trouble people faced due to the sudden move by the Union government on November 8 to demonetize high-value currency notes, saying gone were the days when people were seen standing in long queues outside banks. “Now adequate new currency is available with banks as well as in the market,” he said. Lauding the work done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the past three years, Jaitley said “surgical strike” and demonetization have been largely praised across the world since such steps strengthen the nation’s internal security. He was in Amritsar to address BJP’s ‘Vijay Sankalp Yatra’, which concluded today.