The upcoming general election has compelled the state government to present a vote-on-account for financial year 2014-15 instead of a full budget.
The interim budget will be presented in the Assembly on Thursday.
“The passing of a full budget would have involved a long process of at least six weeks, in which the allocation of several departments would have to be debated in the legislative Houses and an appropriation bill passed. This government is not willing to wait that long and wants to go ahead for the Lok Sabha poll campaign,” said a government official.
The government was under no obligation to seek a vote-on-account instead of presenting a full budget, as Bihar will not come under the election code of conduct. Assembly polls in the state are scheduled in late 2015. A finance department official said the state had taken a vote-on-account in 2009 as well when Assembly polls were due in 2010.
However, given the volatile political situation in Bihar and opinion polls predicting a dip in tally of Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), the government has opted for vote-an-account, also known as interim budget.
The vote-on-account is a special provision in which the government obtains the vote from legislative Houses for a sum sufficient to incur expenditure for a part of the financial year in an election year. Finance officials say that expenditure for a period of four months would be obtained.
Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have presented full budgets. Even Haryana, which goes to polls in September, has opted for a full budget.
During his Sankalp rallies, Nitish has tended to link his fate to the Lok Sabha polls. He has said that if the JD(U) fares badly, his government would collapse within 10 days. “We will fight the polls without the BJP. With the political situation fluid and leaders hopping from one party to another, Nitish needs to spend more time on the road, deciding strategy than on government files,” said a JD(U) minister.
A full budget would tie down the chief minister, ministers and MLAs till the end of March. The present Assembly session in which the vote-on-account will be taken has just seven working days.
Economists and industrialists favour a full budget as they apprehend adverse economical impact. PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industries chairman Satyajit Kumar has written to Nitish asking him to present a full budget instead of a vote-an-account. “Since the state is progressing in almost all macro-economic indicators, the timely budget proposal comes critical to put the state on the high growth trajectory,” Singh wrote.
He has expressed unhappiness over discontinuation of the pre-budget consultations with industry, calling it a setback for the stakeholder. He also expressed concern over the decline in the contribution of industries to Bihar’s GSDP.
Economist N.K. Choudhary, the new principal of Patna College, minced no words at the government decision. “Nitish has let people down. A vote-on-account is just for expenditure for a short period... an indication of poor governance. You do not have a vision for the financial year,” he said.