After several weeks of kite-flying, oil minister Veerappa Moily chanced his arm on Tuesday and declared that the Centre will raise the ceiling on the number of subsidised LPG cylinder per household from six to nine. But hours after he said so, the Election Commission (EC) took suo motu cognizance of the promise and shut it down because this is the election season in Gujarat and the Model Code of Conduct forbids any populist promises.
The commission held an emergency meeting soon after the minister made his statement and directed the Union government to stop the move in its tracks. The meeting chaired by chief election commissioner V S Sampath shot off a stern letter to the petroleum and natural gas ministry pointing out that the Model Code of Conduct on elections is in force in Gujarat, and any such promise is a violation of it. The first phase of polling in Gujarat will be on Thursday.
The commission’s letter told the ministry that “the move for a reported increase in the supply of subsidised gas cylinders, if any, must be stopped forthwith, under confirmation to the commission.” The EC’s letter cited media reports of Moily’s promise and sought an explanation from Moily by 11 a.m. on Wednesday.
Announcing the government’s intent, Moily had told reporters earlier that “I think it is likely to go up definitely from six (cylinders) to nine.” The government had in Sept capped the supply of subsidised LPG at six per household per year. Any additional requirement was to be bought at market price of `931 per cylinder. Subsidised LPG costs `410.50 per cylinder. Ever since it announced the cutback, the government had been told of the likely backlash from voters.
However, Moily said the decision to raise the cap would be taken by the Cabinet “very shortly”.