Budget, cycle, hate… Election Commission has hands full

Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi | PTI

 NEW DELHI: Come elections, the Nirvachan Sadan acquires a voice that can be heard above the din of campaign and the frenzied who-will-the-next-CM speculations. But this time round in the five state polls, the Election Commission has an even bigger role. 

To start with, the Election Commission will be the adjudicator on whether the Union budget can be presented on February 1, just three days before the first phase of polling. It will also decide whether the ruling Samajwadi Party will be cycling for votes in UP and whether the likes of Unnao MP  Sakshi Maharaj can get away with their usual divisive loose talk after the Supreme Course ban on appeals to the voter based on caste, creed and communal agendas.

Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha on Tuesday replied to Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi’s letter seeking clarification on why the budget presentation was advanced to Feb 1.

He is also said to have pointed out that the Union Cabinet took the call on advancing the budget way back in November. And the commission should have factored in the budget dates while scheduling the polls.  The full three-member commission is expected to give a ruling.

The government will not be able to make any budget announcement which has a direct bearing on the states going to polls. On the Samajwadi Party symbol issue, the Election Commission issued notices on Tuesday to both Mulayam Singh Yadav and his chief minister son Akhilesh Yadav to come for a hearing on January 13. This despite the now-on, now-off truce attempt between the two Samajwadi Party factions, led by the father and the son. Like its ruling on the budget, the poll panel decision on the symbol will have a far-reaching impact on the polls.

In the midst of these two heavy-duty decisions, the election watchdog has to also take a call on whether to let off BJP’s Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj with a warning. In view of the apex court judgement banning all forms of “divisive” solicitations, the Election Commission may crack the whip and give a decisive ruling. 

The complaint against Maharaj was filed by the Congress. In its showcause notice, the panel has also cited the FIR that had been lodged against Maharaj, who gave his family planning proposals a communal twist. All eyes therefore are on the panel. 

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