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Q. Budget and elections: In the backdrop of Supreme Court judgment, comment on postponement of budget presentation because of state elections.
Jan 25, 2017 Related to : GS Paper-2

Ans :

Introduction-

Recently Supreme Court of India dismissed a petition seeking the postponement of the Central budget till the Assembly elections in five States. Similarly Election Commission of India also ruled against postponement rather it directed central government not to announce schemes specific to poll-bound States in the Union Budget.

Issue-

Central government has been keen to abandon the tradition of presenting the next financial year’s Budget on the last working day of February, citing various potential benefits for the economy. It wants to present budget in the first week of February, but opposition parties are opposing it in the backdrop of polls in five states as ruling party may influence  people to vote in a particular fashion.

Analysis-

  • Before the announcement of election dates for five states, central government has decided the advancement of budget presentation. Advancement of budget has the potential benefits for the economy from faster spending of the approved public expenditure.
  • With a February-end Budget the transmission of funds, and thereby meaningful implementation, seldom starts before June, by which time the monsoon sets in. 
  • It leaves just about two quarters to spend a whole year’s funding for projects involving physical infrastructure capacity-creation, for instance. Hence central government wants to advancement the Budget date do rectify these anomalies.
  • But opposition parties have voiced concern that a Budget presentation this year so close to Assembly polls could influence voters. In 2012, the last time these five States were headed for polls, the then government had voluntarily opted to defer the Budget presentation. Hence they are demanding for postponement of budget presentation.
  • By hearing both sides the apex court has observed that there is nothing concrete to back the notion that presentation of the annual budget can sway the minds of people during the State Assembly polls. Hence it has dismissed petition seeking the postponement of budget.
  • Presentation of union budget should not be altered because of state elections, as every year one or the other state goes for election in India. In this backdrop the orders of Supreme Court and election commission makes sense.


Conclusion-


In India budget is seen as political tool to influence popular votes, hence opposition parties always seen it in apprehensive manner. This is the reason that they want postponement of budget date this year. But apex court has rightly dismissed such petition and allowed central government to go as per its plan to present annual budget.  


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