Millennium Post

Opposition to closely watch sop announcements in 'poll-eve' budget

With the government set to present the Union Budget 2017-18 on February 1 despite protests, the opposition parties say they will have their eyes set on the budget, indicating that any sops for election-bound states may lead to disruptions.

While the government is hoping for a peaceful budget session, with around 24 new and pending bills on its agenda, the opposition parties have said that they will raise demonetisation issue again.

Demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8 last year, led to almost wash-out of the entire winter session of Parliament.

Opposition leaders, which had sought that the budget be postponed in view of the polls to five state assemblies, express apprehensions sops may be announced for the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur even though the Election Commission has barred the government from announcing any new schemes.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told IANS that the government has 24 new as well as pending bills, including the bill on Goods and Services Tax (GST), which it hopes to get passed.

"I am confident that Parliament will run smoothly and there will be debate and discussion. The government is prepared to discuss all issues raised by the opposition as per rules and with the permission of the chair," Naqvi told IANS.

The budget session starts on January 31 with President's address to a joint sitting of both Houses.

The budget, which will have the railway budget merged in it, will be presented on February 1.

The government also decided to advance the date of budget presentation so as to complete the entire process of its passage before the end of fiscal year. This has been done to allow ministries to make better use of their budget allocations and start spending those from the beginning of upcoming fiscal year, government sources said.

The opposition parties, which had approached the Election Commission over the government move to present the budget on February 1, ahead of polling for the state assemblies, said they have their eyes fixed on the budget.

Asked about the session, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said much will depend on the budget.

"We will analyse the budget and then decide as to what will be our strategy. We do not know how the budget is going to be," Sibal said.

Sibal also said that demonetisation will also be one of the major issues in Parliament.

"Demonetisation certainly is a money bill, but if this government believes in any element of accountability of transparency, they should allow it to be discussed in the Rajya Sabha and voted upon. The reason why they will not allow that to happen is because they know that it will be defeated," he said.

Communist Party of India leader D. Raja wondered how the government is going ahead with the budget presentation despite assembly polls.

"We are waiting for the all-party meeting, because most of the opposition parties had demanded postponing the budget, but the government did not relent," he said.

"While the Supreme Court has dismissed a plea seeking postponement of the Union Budget presentation, the Election Commission has said that the government cannot announce anything for the five states where polls are being held," Raja said.

"I don't know how the budget can be presented in such circumstances. At the all-party meeting, we will discuss about this and how can they go ahead with the exercise," he said.

The Left leader also underlined that demonetisation continues to be a major issue.

"Budget is a financial exercise, so demonetisation has to be an important issue," he said.

Trinamool Congress Member of Parliament Sultan Ahmed also spoke on similar lines.

"Demonetisation is the most important issue, both inside and outside parliament. We will definitely raise this issue," he said, adding that a final call will be taken by party chief Mamta Banerjee on Monday.

The Budget Session starts from January 31 and will go into a break on February 9. The session will be reconvened on March 9 and continue up to April 12.
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