After the Election Commission warned the Union government against announcing any populist measure when the model code of conduct is in force for the Gujarat Assembly polls, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Veerappa Moily on Wednesday retracted his statement that the cap on subsidised LPG cylinders would be increased from six to nine and said no final decision had been taken. “If the proposal had been given a firm shape or a decision had been taken…, I would have definitely written to the Election Commission…,” he told journalists at a hurriedly convened press conference here.
Mr. Moily said the government had maintained that it was reviewing the decision on the six-cylinder limit in view of the widespread demand from various sections, including political parties. “I reiterated the same position during my interaction with the media on Tuesday evening at a CII function. Not that I would like to do anything for political gain behind the back of the Election Commission. That is not our intention. We are very clear about it. We are very transparent and objective about it.”
The clarification came after the Election Commission took exception to his announcement and sought an explanation from him.
Mr. Moily also wrote to Chief Election Commissioner V. Sampath, setting forth the government’s position. “The Government is yet to take a decision… As such, my response to media queries should not be treated as an announcement… I would like to assure you that due regard to the applicable rules and procedures of the Election Commission… shall be given as and when a decision… is taken by the government,” he said in the letter.
Mr. Moily told reporters that there was a widespread demand — including from 100 Congress MPs, several Chief Ministers and Union Ministers — that the government reconsider its September 13 decision because only six cylinders a household a year was not practical. “Concerns had to be addressed today or tomorrow. But at the same time, I am conscious that I would not have done anything without writing to the Election Commission…”
He said LPG consumption in urban areas differed from that in rural areas and problems plagued cylinder distribution in the North-east, Jammu and Kashmir and other far-flung places. “I cannot say I should shut out my mind, I should shut my heart, shut my ears and I should shut out my voice on these concerns. I had talked to one of the Election Commissioners on these concerns. I was about to write to them to exclude the poll-bound Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat.”
The developments could delay the official announcement by a few days; a decision is expected to be announced on December 20.