An ongoing tug-of-war between govt, Opposition

An ongoing tug-of-war between govt, Opposition

Does everything lead to a war between the Government and the Opposition in this country No could be a general answer, but it is not to be in our...

Does everything lead to a war between the Government and the Opposition in this country? 'No' could be a general answer, but it is not to be in our political system. Is not it so? It is always a 24/7 'Tom and Jerry' show. More so, when it is an election year.

And so, the latest friction point has to be the country's Budget. Amid the fear of the Government preparing itself to present a full Budget to garner people's support for it during the election year, the Opposition has firmly opposed it demanding only a Vote on Account Budget. The Government has clarified that it will be a Vote on Account only and not a full Budget.

The Opposition is not ready to take it on the face value because of the past experiences with the Government. The question here is of trust and it has eroded in this government due to the throwing of all norms to the wind. Let us examine here, in full, what is appropriate and what is not in this regard.

The Executive needs the approval of the Legislature for spending money as the Government needs money for its function. The basic concept is simple. Even though the Government collects money from the public through various taxes it has imposed, it needs approval for the same to be spent from the Legislature. This is what Article 266 of the Constitution of India says: Parliament approval is required to draw money from the Consolidated Fund of India. Besides Article 114 (3) of the Constitution also stipulates that no amount can be drawn from the Consolidated Fund without the enactment of a law (appropriation bill).

That is why even this Government has to present a Vote on Account Budget now. Now, that is the law. But, if this government defies the law and goes for the full Budget as is being speculated now, it only proves once again that it has scant regard and respect for the Constitution and established norms of the Parliamentary democracy.

Because, the full budget is usually passed only after long discussions. Even the Government seeks approval of expenditure for the next financial year in the current financial year itself. Why should it be a Vote on Budget? Because the approval from Legislature takes its time.

Very often, these discussions and voting of demands for grants and passing of Appropriation Bill go beyond any (current) financial year. Since the Parliament is not able to vote the entire budget before the commencement of the new financial year, the necessity to keep enough finance at the disposal of Government arises.

Is not it very clear why a full Budget is not possible and no government could fake it during the last year of its survival and existence? Convention says that Vote on Account Budget be passed without any discussion as a formality. If the Government feels that it should be for more than a duration of two months too there is no problem. If the Executive (Government) feels that during an election year when it is anticipated that the main Demands and Appropriation Bill will take longer time than two months, the Vote on Account may be for a period exceeding two months. Fair enough. Is it not?

Or will it go for an interim Budget which is a complete set of accounts, including both expenditure and receipts but which may not contain big policy proposals. Even this is fair enough technically to do so.

However, making any big ticket announcements is inappropriate and imposing policies that may or may not be acceptable to the incoming government taking over in the same year, is sheer nonsense. But, those who cannot even follow political appropriateness in their speeches cannot be expected to honour law or convention or decorum in other areas of governance.

If the incumbent ruling party attempts to do so, it will only buttress the charges of the Opposition that the democracy is endangered under its rule. What a pity it would be in the eventuality of such a development alas! Let us hope it sticks to its word this time around at least.

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