Finance Minister Arun Jaitley gave 110 per cent more funds to the Election Commission (EC) in the financial budget for 2018-19 for the purpose of conducting elections in the country. This has given rise to the speculation that the Union government may advance the general elections scheduled in March next year.
Jaitley budgeted Rs 2.48 billion for 2018-19 for the purpose of conducting elections. The EC had spent Rs 1.18 billion on conducting elections in the current fiscal, according to revised estimates of 2017-18.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been consistently advocating for simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and the state assemblies. President Ram Nath Kovind, too, pitched for simultaneous elections during his joint parliamentary address before the starting of budget session. But to conduct simultaneous polls, the gov.ernment would have to first amend the constitution and many laws governing the conduct of elections in the country .
Overall the government increased the EC budget by 41 per cent. Jaitley budgeted Rs 2.67 billion for EC in 2018-19, whereas EC's total expenditure was Rs 1.89 billion, according to the revised estimates of 2017-18.
The extra budgetary allocation also has led to speculation that general elections may be held with other Bharatiya Janata Party ruled states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. These three states are due for polls later this year, whereas the assembly elections in Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura are scheduled for March this year. Karnataka may go to polls in April.
The government, however, said the budgetary allocations are mainly for the purpose of purchase of additional land for EC.
“The provision is mainly for the establishment related expenditure of the Election Commission of India and for the expenditure to be incurred on construction of India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management campus and purchase of land for additional building for Election Commission. It also includes provision for purchase of computer items and maintenance thereof in the Commission and for the scheme of National Voters Awareness Campaign,” the government said in the budget document.