The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on February 1 presented the Union Budget 2017 and announced that the maximum donation that a party can accept as a cash donation is Rs 2000. He added that political parties will be entitled to receive donations by cheque or in the digital mode from their donors.

The Finance Minister announced this decision after observing that political parties continue to receive most funds through anonymous donations.

It is for the first time in the history of India, both the Union Budget and the Rail budget have been merged with the General Budget. There will be no separate Rail budget, this time! This decision to present the budget together was taken with the aim to complete the whole process before the end of this financial year.

Jaitley asserted that service charges on railway tickets booked online through IRCTC will be withdrawn. He added that online bookings have gone up from 58% to 68% since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetisation drive. He further announced that the government has set Rs 2.74 lakh crore as a budget the Defence. In the Budget 2016, the government had allocated Rs 2.58 crore for the defence.

Due to the untimely demise of sitting MP E Ahamed, there was an uncertainty whether or not the budget would be presented on Wednesday. Later, after consulting all the other parties, it was decided that the budget would be presented as planned.

The decision to advance the date of budget presentation to February 1 was taken with an aim to complete the entire process before the end of financial year. However, there was a lot of criticism from opposition parties who alleged that the decision was taken to benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the upcoming assembly elections in five states. The BJP though has claimed that the economic growth of the nation cannot be put on hold just because some states are going to polls.