New Delhi, January 24: The Election Commission on Monday barred the Central government from announcing any schemes for the five poll-bound states while clearing deck for presenting the Union Budget 2017 on February 1.
The poll panel specifically made it clear that Finance Minister’s speech should not refer to Modi government’s achievements in these states either.
In a letter addressed to the Cabinet Secretary, the election commission said that “in the interest of free and fair elections” and in order to maintain “level playing field”, no state-specific schemes shall be announced “in the union budget as it may have the effect of “influencing the electors” in five poll-bound states.
The Modi government has advanced the presentation of the annual budget 2017 to February 1, a month before the usual budget day on 28 February. Assembly elections in the five states– Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur are scheduled to be held between February 4 and March 8.
Just a few hours before the direction from EC was out, the Supreme Court (SC) had rejected a plea for deferring the Union Budget 2017-18, in view of assembly polls in five states. The court accepted that the presentation has to be done before the start of the financial year (FY) 2017 and not during the FY.
Rejecting the plea, the SC observed: “If there is something that the Centre does that affects elections in the states then the Election Commission would come into the picture.”