Ghulam Nabi Azad
Ghulam Nabi AzadReuters

The Opposition parties, led by Congress, held a meeting with Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi to urge him to hold the elections only after the presentation of the Union Budget 2017. However, after the meeting, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad who led the delegation said that the opposition parties have demanded that the Budget be presented after the assembly elections end on March 8.

The Opposition is against the Centre's decision to present the Budget on February 1 — two days before the assembly polls in Punjab and Goa and 10 days before Uttar Pradesh goes to polls.

Assembly elections in UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur are scheduled to be held between February 4 and March 8, while the counting of votes will be done on March 11. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will be presenting the budget for fiscal year 2018 on February 1.

Azad, who is the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, represented the Congress Party at the meeting, while other Opposition parties that joined the meeting included Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Trinamool Congress (TMC). The Left, however, has decided to not attend the meeting. They had also not attended the press meet called by the Opposition parties against demonetisation.

"Populist measures could be taken in budget. So a just and fair election can't be held. We demand that budget be presented after March 8, which is when polling for elections will be over," Azad said after meeting with Zaidi.

"It is clear that the Govt will misuse the budget presentation and try to allure the voters just before polls," Congress leader Anand Sharma told ANI.

A few political parties had requested the EC to not allow the presentation of the Budget during the assembly polls since the announcements made during the Budget Session could influence votes. Zaidi had said on Wednesday that the EC was looking into the matter and would take a call in "due course of time." All major opposition parties — Congress, Left, BSP and Shiv Sena — then demanded that the date on which the Budget will be presented be changed.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury lashed out at the Centre on Wednesday saying that it was "a short-term political move with an eye on UP and Punjab elections."

However, Jaitley said that he did not understand how the Budget Session would have an imapct on the assembly elections. He also pointed out that an interim Budget was presented before the general elections in 2014 as well.

Meanwhile, the EC has asked Akhilesh Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav to respond to the petitions filed by them claiming the party symbol by January 9, ANI quoted EC sources as saying.