Opposition divided over government’s plan to advance Union budget to January

Finance minister Arun Jaitley leaves the north block to present the budget on February 29, 2016.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley leaves the north block to present the budget on February 29, 2016.

NEW DELHI (TIP): The Modi government’s plan to announce the General Budget in January might get the Congress’ support, even as some small parties remain apprehensive.

The government is planning to advance the budget by a month, from next year. The NDA managers feel the move will provide more time for savings and tax payout plans.

“The time has come to think differently. There are strong arguments for changing the schedule of budget presentation,” said Jairam Ramesh, a Congress strategist.

“No final decision has been taken so far, but the ministry is examining the idea to advance the date of presenting the budget,” said a finance ministry official who did not wish to be named.

The official added that if an early budget is finalized, pre-budget consultations will most likely begin from September.

Biju Janata Dal also supported the move to advance the budget. “An early budget will help the states,” said BJD’s floor leader in Lok Sabha, Bhartruhari Mahtab. “The states can get their money under the devolution of fund by April. It will help the local governments to use the summer more effectively to carry out development works,” added Mahtab.

Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, as usual, stood poles apart on the idea of advancing the budget. Rajesh Dixit, SP national secretary and spokesman said, “The manner in which the NDA government is going about changing established procedures, it would appear that India achieved freedom only in 2014”.

BSP MP Salim Ansari said, “If it helps ease the parliamentary process, no harm in preponing the budget exercise by one month.”

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury maintained that the government must take all parties and state governments on board before finalizing any new budget schedule. “The move will be meaningless if the finance year is not changed. Is the government read to do that as well?” The Left’s arch rival, Trinamool Congress didn’t see any merit in the plan. “What benefit will it accrue? These are time-tested process and changes are not always good,” said former union minister and Trinamool MP, Saugata Roy.

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