The Election Commission on Monday directed the Central government not to announce schemes specific to poll-bound States in the Union Budget.
Elections are to be held between February 4 and March 8 in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Punjab and Goa.
“It may be ensured that in the Budget speech, the government’s achievements in respect of the said five States [Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Punjab, Manipur and Uttarakhand] will also not be highlighted in any manner,” said an EC order.
The Commission cited a 2009 advisory to all the States and Union Territories on the introduction of the Budget (2009-10) in which it had advised that in cases of poll-going States, a vote-on-account should be taken.
The Election Commission said the government should maintain a level playing field and not announce any programme that would have the effect of influencing the voters in favour of the ruling party(ies).
On January 5, a delegation of Opposition parties petitioned the Commission seeking a recommendation to the Centre to defer the Budget presentation.
The Commission sought a response and the government defended its decision to present the Budget on February 1, stating that it was an annual constitutional exercise with respect to all the States.
The government also justified the decision to advance the date of presentation, stating that this would ensure that budgetary allocations were made available for expeditious implementation of projects.
No State-specific schemes, says EC
The Election Commission has asked the Centre to ensure that no schemes specific to the five election-bound States were announced in the Union Budget in the interest of fair polls.
“It may be ensured that in the Budget, the government’s achievements in respect of the five States... will not be highlighted,” the EC order said.