Union Budget postponement: A non-issue

Indian politicians love to make a big fuss about non-issues. The demand for the postponement of the Union Budget in view of the impending state Assemble polls is an example of that.

For the fundamental presupposition behind the demand for deferment of Budget is that the people of India are so dumb that they could be fooled by certain announcements the Finance Minister makes in his Budget speech, that they could be swayed by the attractiveness of the schemes that he may read out. Now, if people are so foolish, then it anyway doesn’t matter when the Budget is presented, for the Bharatiya Janata Party won’t need it to hoodwink them; the ruling party, and other parties, could do that by making fanciful promises.

But the Opposition refuses to accept these simple facts. So the Congress, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the DMK, the JD (U), and others met with Election Commission (EC) officials on Thursday for the postponement of the Budget to after Assemble elections in five states.

The Budget is likely to be presented on February 1. The Opposition, however, claims that this would be a violation of the Model Code of Conduct. “We have a simple solution. Present the Budget after March 8 and get it passed before March 31, there’s plenty of time,” said the TMC’s Derek O’Brien.

Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress couldn’t agree more with O’Brien. After meeting EC officials, he said, “This is against the democracy (sic), we have requested the EC to stop the presentation of budget. Populist measures could be taken in Budget, so a just and fair election can’t be held.”

The BJP and the government have rightly pointed out that it is a non-issue. “The Budget is a constitutional duty of the government and not related to any one state. The presentation of the Budget is not a sudden decision rather it has been decided beforehand with prior information to the stakeholders.”

It is unfortunate that Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi provided a semblance of respectability to the demand for the deferment of the Union Budget on Wednesday by saying that the issue was being examined.

The Times Of India spoke to three former CECs—N. Gopalaswami, H.S. Brahma, and S.Y. Quraishi. All of them opposed the postponement of Budget, though Quraishi did not find fault with the demand of the Opposition.

It would behoove the Opposition to fight the BJP on real issues, to expose the ruling party’s incompetence, as in the exercises of demonetization and re-monetization. There are myriad of issues on which the BJP would be cut a sorry figure. Postponement of the Budget is certainly not one of them. In fact, as we mentioned earlier, it is not even an issue.