The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Munda meeting off, interim budget looms

Ranchi, Feb. 11: The Jharkhand government is likely to hold a vote-on-account by the month-end after Arjun Munda’s proposed meeting with department secretaries to discuss the plan size for the next financial year was postponed today.

On Sunday, the chief minister held a nine-hour meeting with secretaries and discussed the proposed budgetary provisions for the next fiscal. He also reviewed the functioning of some departments.

Budgetary provisions of eight departments could not be taken up due to lack of time; they were to be discussed today, but the meeting was put off.

Munda instead flew to Daltonganj to distribute assets among tribals at a vikas mela. He also participated in a swasthya mela.

Sources said the chief minister wished to introduce a Rs 5,000-crore budget and was working out the finer details so that he could “boldly” face the people during the next Assembly elections. Officials were even asked to prepare for a 20-day budget session, beginning in the first week of March.

But Munda was informed that such a large budget was not possible at present, even if all centrally-sponsored development schemes continued apace during the next financial year. The plan could only be increased by 20 per cent, he was told.

“We advised the chief minister to ensure that the funds did not lapse again. He should announce as many welfare schemes before the Election Commission executes (the) model code of conduct. This is another reason why he chose to go to Daltonganj instead of sitting with the IAS officers in his office chamber,” a BJP minister said.

“A hasty budget may affect our prospects during the Assembly elections as well. Soon after the Lok Sabha elections, (the) budget session of the Assembly will be convened. If our party fares well in the parliamentary elections, we may go for Assembly elections at the earliest,” he added.

Sources said most states will have to have votes-on-account as the Centre has not held a full-fledged budget. There is confusion over the shape of existing schemes during the next fiscal as well as new schemes that may be introduced.

Accordingly, the Planning Commission is unable to make necessary provisions for the states.

“We have done our homework for the next budget. If the same schemes continue, then our plan size will be 15-20 per cent higher than that of the preceding fiscal. But to tell you the truth, a budget session is unlikely in the BJP’s feel-good season,” a senior bureaucrat said.

Finance department sources said the government was thinking of calling a four-day Assembly session by the month-end or the first week of March to get the vote-on-account passed. A budget session may be held in June or July.

Land revenue minister Madhu Singh said there was nothing unusual about the vote-on-account. “If you go through the records, the Bihar government never placed its budget on time. This is an extraordinary situation. Moreover, a vote-on-account will not cause inconvenience to anyone,” he said.

Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari said a budget session was unlikely because the cabinet was yet to decide if an Assembly session should be called.

“As per the rules, after a cabinet decision to call an Assembly session, the proposal has to be sent to the governor for approval. After a notification by Raj Bhavan, 15 days’ time has to be given to the legislators to put forward their questions…,” he said.

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