Several Opposition parties met the Election Commission on Thursday urging it to postpone the Union Budget after the Assembly elections in the five poll-bond states are completed, reported NDTV. This included the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal (United), The Union Budget will be presented on February 1, while the elections will begin on February 4.

The Opposition parties alleged that presenting the Union Budget three days before the states hold elections gives the government an unfair advantage to influence the voters, and this would be a violation of model code of conduct, IANS reported. Speaking to the media after the meeting, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said a fair election cannot be held if the Budget is presented on February 1. “Populist measures could be taken in the Budget, so a just and fair election can’t be held...We demand that the Budget be presented after March 8, which is when polling for elections will be over,” he said according to ANI.

The Election Commission will now seek a response from the Centre, reported the Hindustan Times. However, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told ANI, “There is no scope for a change, the budget will be announced on 1 February.”

Later, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy accused the Opposition of attempting to discredit the National Democratic Alliance government at every opportunity. “Our government has taken a stand that they will present the budget as per the [Union Cabinet’s] decision,” Swamy said, according to ANI. “The only place where you can...get relief is the Election Commission because the Election Commission is supposed to implement the model code.”

On Wednesday, the EC had announced the dates for the polls in five states – Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur, Goa and Uttarakhand. The polls will go on from February 4 to March 8, and the counting of votes will take place on March 11. The Opposition parties on Wednesday wrote a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee and the Chief Election Commissioner, demanding that the dates for the Budget session be postponed. The BJP on Wednesday had said the dates cannot be postponed as “every year, some election or the other takes place”.

On December 27, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that Budget Session was being advanced so that the “expenditure to various sectors is authorised by the time the new financial year begins”.