The proposed move of NDA government to present a detailed budget for the next financial year has been criticised by the opposition especially as there have been already five regular budgets presented by Arun Jaitley. Now the interim finance minister Piyush Goyal is holding meetings preparing for a full budget. The Narendra Modi government argues that there is no constitutional bar on Goyal presenting a full budget even though a new government will come into office in May. There is no political guarantee that it will be a full majority NDA government headed by Narendra Modi.
On the cusp of elections, Goyal will not increase any tax. On the other hand he is more likely to announce a lot of tax and welfare reliefs, especially for farmers, agricultural urban poor, income tax payers, small and medium industries, labour intensive export sectors and to banking sector. The tax reliefs can be included in the Finance Bill, which needs prior permission of the President before introduction. The government expects no objections from the Rashtrapati Bhavan given the excellent rapport between President Ramnath Kovind and Modi, as well as precedents on the exercise of powers by a government which enjoys majority in Lok Sabha.
The budget can also provide more funds for the financial year 2019-20 for key programmes and ministries to meet the additional provisions. It has been a tradition so far that the outgoing government facing an election in summer gets approval of parliament for government spending from April to September at the spending level of the previous year for these months. This is what Manmohan Singh had done in 2014 though the budget was used to highlight the achievements of the government.
But Modi and his ministers insist that the government's five year ends only in May and till then all policy decisions can be taken. Only when elections are announced the Model Code of Conduct comes into force preventing new announcements.
The government’s argument has force as two prime ministers who had lost majority in parliament took policy decisions and even dissolved the Lok Sabha prematurely arguing there was no provision for a caretaker cabinet in the Constitution. First was Chandrashekar in 1990-91 whose minority government collapsed within four months and he was asked by President R Venkataraman to continue till elections were over. Venkataraman put a condition that no policy decisions should be taken by the cabinet but Chandrashekar who was in charge of most portfolios carried on as a full-fledged prime minister. His successor P V Narasimha Rao reversed a few decisions of Chandrashekar.
In 1999, Atal Behari Vajpayee lost majority by a single vote and was told by President K R Narayanan to continue till elections were held. Vajpayee also declared "I am the Prime Minister" and conducted the Kargil War. Since he won the 1999 election, all decisions remained in force.
In the case of Modi, the present Lok Sabha will exist till a new one is constituted. Hence he will use every single day to take major decisions. Especially those which would help him electorally. More the noise the opposition makes, it can be better for him.