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Early Budget not linked to polls: FM at all-party meet

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NEW DELHI: Finance minister Arun Jaitley told an all-party meeting on Monday that the Union Budget would observe “normal discipline”, indicating that the opposition’s apprehensions that it would contain a poll pitch aimed at the forthcoming state polls are misplaced.

Responding to opposition leaders, Jaitley is understood to have said that the exercise to bring the Budget forward began a year ago and is not linked to the state polls. The decision is intended to ensure that spending begins from April 1 instead of the third and fourth quarters, he said.

The Left and Congress raised the issue, stating that the Budget should have been put off in view of the polls. CPM’s Sitaram Yechury said the Budget would be presented with the results of only two quarters of 2016-17 in review. The meeting also saw PM Narendra Modi saying political grouses and complaints (gile-shikwe) are commonplace, but Parliament is meant to reconcile differences and work out solutions.

The efficacy of the appeal was tested by the absence of Trinamool Congress at the meeting. The party is upset by the arrest of its legislators in chit fund scam cases, and has opposed demonetisation tooth and nail. Shiv Sena was also absent, sparking speculation whether this was linked to the falling-out with BJP over the Mumbai civic elections. Another party to absent itself was PDP.

Interestingly, there were no nameplates for TMC, indicating the party was not expected to attend, while Shiv Sena and PDP chairs remained unoccupied. “There could be difference among political parties but it should reflect only in polls and campaigns. However, all parties should come together and ensure that the House functions uninterruptedly,” Modi said, suggesting that all parties can express their views constructively in the discussion on the President’s address.

Congress member Jyotiraditya Scindia said they wanted to discuss issues such as demonetisation and canteen provisions for paramilitary and Army personnel. AIADMK and DMK raised the issue of jallikattu.

Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar said the PM was of the view that Parliament was a ‘mahapanchayat’, and all the government wanted was a discussion. “All parties, particularly the opposition, were of the view that the Budget session should function and discussion take place,” Kumar said.

Article source: News Source

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