The budget session of Parliament is likely to begin on January 31, advancing it by over three weeks, the cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs decided on Tuesday.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley will present the combined Union budget – including allocations for the railways and ending a 92-year-old tradition of presenting a separate railway budget – on February 1.
Jaitley was present at the meeting also attended by home minister Rajnath Singh, parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.
Officials expect the move will allow for earlier allocation of funds for government schemes and projects and lead to their better implementation on the ground. In the past, funds were usually not allotted from the beginning of the financial year on April 1, creating a backlog and choking funds.
Though the budget was presented in February, several tax proposals kick-in only from June after Parliament passes the annual finance bill in May. A group of secretaries in the government had recommended advancing the budget to overcome the problem.
The move will also allow individuals and companies more time to firm up savings and tax payout plans.
Parliament passes the budget through a two-stage process. A vote on account is passed in March to meet necessary expenses on employees’ salaries and other costs for two to three months.
The finance bill, which contains tax changes, and the demands and appropriation bill, which spells out full year expenditure details, are passed in May. Political pressures often force tax changes proposed in February during the finance bill’s passage in May.
Parliament had witnessed disruptions through the month-long winter session that was a virtual washout as opposition parties and the government clashed primarily over the recall of 500- and 1,000-rupee banknotes.
The confrontation overshadowed Parliament’s legislative business, including passage of key social and financial reforms bills.
The Lok Sabha, where the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) enjoys a brute majority with more than 330 parliamentarians, managed to pass two bills in the winter session. The Rajya Sabha, where the NDA is in a minority, passed a single legislation.
The Lower House was able to use 15% of the allotted time, against the Rajya Sabha’s 19% - a sharp fall from the previous session in which the two Houses spent 101% and 96% of their time.
These allegations and counter-allegations ahead of elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and three other states next year could cast a shadow on the legislative agenda of the government in the coming session of Parliament.