Taking strong exception to Petroleum Minister M. Veerappa Moily's remarks on raising the LPG cap, the Election Commission Tuesday asked him to explain his action in view of the model code of conduct in place for the Gujarat assembly elections.
The poll panel asked the minister to explain the matter by 11 a.m. Wednesday.
In a separate letter to Petroleum Secretary G.C. Chaturvedi, the commission has asked him "to stop forthwith any move to raise the cap on the supply of subsidized gas cylinders".
In its letter to the minister, the poll panel said that he had announced that the central government is raising the number of subsidized cylinders to each household from the present six cylinders to nine in a year.
The poll panel said his announcement came when the election process for the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assemblies is currently on and the model code of conduct is in operation.
"The commission has taken strong exception to your aforesaid announcement when the first phase of polling in the state of Gujarat is only two days away," the poll panel said in its letter.
The first phase of the Gujarat elections are slated for Thursday and the second round for Dec 17. Counting in both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, where polls were held Nov 4, will be on Dec 20.
"The commission has desired that you explain your above action at this juncture," the poll panel added.
Moily had said at an event that the LPG cap is "likely to go up definitely from six cylinders to nine cylinders".
The minister said the decision to raise the cap will be taken by the union cabinet "very shortly".
The government had, in September, limited the supply of subsidised LPG to six cylinders per household in a year.
Subsidised cooking gas costs Rs.410.50 per 14.2 kg cylinder at present. Additional requirements have to be bought at the market price of Rs.931.
Moily said as the capping decision had been taken by the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, it would also decide on raising the cap.
Questioned on a time-frame for the decision, he said: "I think as early as possible."
The government will have to provide an additional Rs.9,000 crore per annum if the cap is raised.
The petroleum minister said the government was working on a "certain formula" to neutralise the impact of any additional subsidy burden, and he has had two rounds of discussions with Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on the issue.