The budget session of Parliament is set to begin. Departing from tradition, the BJP-led NDA government had advanced the budget session that usually begins last week of February. This will be the first leg of budget session which will go for a short recess after February 9.
While the General Budget will be presented by Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley on February 1, the Economic survey of India will be tabled on the first day today.
In another significant move, the Railway Budget has been merged with the General budget. Till last year, the Railway Budget was presented by Union Railways minister separately, prior to the General Budget.
The move by Modi government to advance the budget session has come under opposition from several opposition parties. Their contention was to defer the presentation of budget in the view of impending Assembly polls in five states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa.
The poll process gets over on March 11, on the day of vote count and declaration of results.
While Opposition parties, including Congress, SP, TMC, BSP, RJD and BSP among others had approached the Election Commission seeking the intervention in view of polls in the state, UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting the shifting of budget presentation.
In its reply to the EC, the government defended its move, describing the Union Budget as an annual constitutional exercise covering the entire country and not just a few states.
The central poll panel, though gave its nod to present the Budget on February 1, it said no schemes related to these poll-bound states can be announced. It has also asked that Finance Minister’s speech should not refer to the central government’s achievements in these states.
Prior to that, the Supreme Court too had rejected the plea seeking postponement of the Budget session.
On the political front, the session may once again see an aggressive opposition, especially Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, which is said to be “angry” over the arrest of its two MPs – Sudip Bandopadhyay and Tapas Paul — by the CBI in connection with the chit-fund scam.
They have already decided to not attend the all-party meeting convened by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan this evening.
The TMC has also announced to not attend the Parliament on February 1 when the Budget is presented, citing Saraswati Puja on that day as the reason. “Trinamool will not attend Parliament on February 1 because of Saraswati Puja which is a big day in Bengal,” party leader and MP Derek O’Brien told news agency PTI.
Asked whether the party was “boycotting” these proceedings or just skipping, he replied, “It is open for your interpretation”.
The last parliament session – Winter session – was a near washout with angry opposition protest on the issue of demonetisation. There too Congress and TMC had taken a lead in raising pitch of Opposition’s protest.