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Political parties welcome EC's poll schedule, express displeasure over Budget presentation

The announcement of a poll schedule for five states was welcomed by all political parties but those opposed to BJP raised objections to the planned Union Budget presentation on February 1, saying it was meant to woo voters for BJP with sops. While the Election Commission said it will examine a representation made by parties opposing the February 1 Budget plan, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley defended the move asking why Opposition parties are afraid of it when they have claimed that demonetizaiton is an unpopular decision.

For the record, all the parties claimed they would do well in the elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

Parties including Congress, Left, SP and BSP have written to the Election Commission and the President opposing the advancing of the budget presentation to February 1 before the polls.

The parties say that this would give an unfair advantage to BJP and its allies as the Centre could announce sops to influence voters.

“It is a collective and serious concern of the Opposition parties that advancing the presentation of budget to February 1 will provide an opportunity to the government to make populist announcements to influence voters.

“This will not only give unfair advantage to the ruling party but will also undermine the process of free and fair elections. It is therefore demanded that in view of the forthcoming elections and the precedent of 2012, the advancement of the presentation of the budget should not be allowed,” Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said in a letter to Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi.

The CEC said the Commission is examining the representation of parties for not allowing the presentation of the Union Budget during the poll process and will take a call on it soon.

“The Commission has received one representation sent by some political parties. This representation is with regards to presentation of the budget. The Commission is examining this representation and in due course of time will take a call on this,” he told reporters when asked about the issue.

Reacting to the Opposition demand, Jaitley said, “These are those political parties which say that popularity of demonetizaitonis very low. So why they are afraid of the Budget.”

When asked about the presentation of the budget in March 2012 after the elections, including in 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,” he said.

BSP supremo Mayawati said the EC should instruct the

central government not to present the General Budget on February 1 and just as 2012, it be presented only after the completion of polling on March 8.

“Voters can be influenced through the Budget and thereby free and fair elections can be effected,” she feared.

Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh also flayed the Modi government’s decision to announce the Union Budget before the assembly elections as a blatant violation of political and electoral norms.

In a statement, he said the move was manifestly aimed at minimising the negative impact of demonetizaitonon the poll prospects of BJP.

Naresh Agrawal, who was recently expelled by Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh in the midst of feud within the ruling party of Uttar Pradesh, insisted the EC to see the budget session announced by the central government be postponed to ensure that the voters do not get influenced.

Welcoming the poll schedule, BJP said state elections are fought largely on the state-level issues but there is a positive undercurrent for the party across the country post demonetisation.

“There is a strong undercurrent. Therefore, we expect to win all the states… our stakes are the lowest, but our gains are going to be highest,” BJP national spokesperson G V L Narsimha Rao said.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala described the polls to the five states including Uttarakhand and Manipur, where his party will seek another term in row, as a ‘yagna’ of democracy and urged the EC to ensure “free, fair and independent polls”.

“We also hope that the use of muscle power, abuse of government power and misuse of money power will be checked once and for all and it will be good for democracy,” he said, while welcoming the poll schedule.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose AAP is fancying chances of clinching power in Punjab and Goa, claimed the situation in the two states, where the BJP is in power or sharing it, is “bad” and people want to bring in an “honest” government led by his party in the upcoming polls.

“Both in Punjab and Goa, the situation is bad. In Punjab, people want to throw the BJP coalition government and bring in an honest AAP government so that they get freed from drugs and corruption,” he said.

Sanjay Raut, an MP from NDA constituent Shiv Sena, said poll preparations of the saffron party are “complete”, particularly in northern states and BJP-ruled Goa.

Congress’ chief ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh, Sheila Dikshit, too said the party will go for a time-bound programme in the politically-crucial state and “will contest to win”.

Maya worried budget might influence elections

Expressing apprehension that voters could be influenced through announcements in the Union Budget, BSP chief Mayawati today asked the Election Commission to instruct the Centre to present the general budget only after completion of polling in all the five states in March.

“The EC should instruct the central government not to present the general budget on February 1 and just as 2012, it be presented only after the completion of polling on March 8,” Mayawati said in a party release here.

“Voters can be influenced through the budget and thereby free and fair elections can be effected,” she said.

Mayawati’s plea to the EC came moments after Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi announced the poll schedule for five states and said the Commission was examining the representation of various political parties for not allowing the presentation of the Union Budget during the poll process.

Zaidi said various political parties have represented to the Election Commission regarding the issue of presentation of Union Budget which is likely to be presented on February 1 by the central government as it falls during the election campaign to five states.

“The Commission is examining this representation and in due course of time will take a call on this,” he said when asked about the issue.

The BSP supremo also asked the EC to maintain a hawk eyed vigil on rivals BJP, SP and Congress and ensure strict compliance of the Model Code of Conduct as these parties are in the “habit of flouting” it, as has been experienced in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Welcoming the decision to hold seven-phased elections in UP, Mayawati alleged that the state’s police and machinery had been used for political purposes by the Akhilesh Yadav government and there were chances that it could be misused by the caretaker government as well.

To check any misuse of the police and administration by the care-taker government, there is a need to deploy central forces as much as possible and keep a close watch on local police, she said.

Mayawati said that her party will contest the Assembly polls in Uttarakhand and Punjab besides Uttar Pradesh on its own.

Various political parties, including Congress, Left, Samajwadi Party and some others, have represented to the EC for not allowing the central government to present the budget during poll process as the sops that could be announced in it may influence voters in upcoming Assembly polls.