Election Commission building in New Delhi
New Delhi: Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi may have been ambiguous on if the Union Budget slated for February 1 will have to be rescheduled in light of the assembly election schedule for five states, but two of his predecessors told News18 the Union government could go ahead with a full budget for FY 2017-18 without fearing violation of the model code of conduct.
Both TS Krishnamurthy and N Gopalaswami who served between said that the Union Budget would have to be cut to a Vote-on-Account only if this was a Lok Sabha election.
According to the poll schedule announced by Zaidi on Wednesday, the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Goa will go to polls from February 4 to March 8.
“Even though the code of conduct has come into effect, it will not disrupt the presentation of the budget. This is primarily because budget presentation is a Central government exercise.
Any sops announced for the country without being specific to the poll-bound states will not violate the code. I am sure somebody will challenge it but my initial impression says a central budget presentation will not violate the MCC,” he said Krishnamurthy who was CEC between 2004 and 2005.
N Gopalaswami, who was the CEC from 2006-2009, reiterated the same point.
“These are assembly elections and not parliamentary elections. Hence, vote-on-account will not be needed in case of such a clash between the budget and the code. This is a budget for the entire country. Yes, the railway budget might have some measures which might benefit the poll bound states, but there are no easy answers for that. Every year some states will go for elections and the budget cannot be deferred because of this. Exceptional case is only when parliamentary elections clash with the budget. If a permanent solution is sought for this, then elections have to be held only once in 5 years and thereby avoiding such clashes,” he said.
During the press conference to announce the dates, Zaidi, while replying to a question, had said that the EC had received one representations with regard to presentation of budget. “We are examining it and will take call on it in due course,” he said.