The Election Commission Wednesday expressed its "strong disapproval" of Petroleum Minister M. Veerappa Moily's remarks on raising the cap on LPG cylinder supply ahead of the Gujarat elections and asked him to be "circumspect in future."
Moily, whom the commission Tuesday asked to explain his remark over LPG cap being increased from six to nine, in his reply to the commission Wednesday accepted that he made the announcement.
The commission said the remarks amount to violation of Model Code of Conduct as the first phase of the Gujarat elections are slated for Thursday. The second round is on Dec 17. Counting in both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, where polls were held Nov 4, will be on Dec 20.
"..the commission hereby conveys its strong disapproval of your above action and cautions you to be circumspect in future," the panel said.
In its letter to the minister, secretary Harbans Singh said that though he said that the government is yet to take a decision in the matter, it has emerged that the cap on the supply of the subsidized LPG cylinders is being raised from the present six to nine a family a year.
"The commission is of the considered view that your above mentioned reply amounts to announcement of promise of financial grant by the government, which the Model Code of Conduct prohibits during its operation when the election process is on," the poll panel said.
The poll panel said that when the Model Code of Conduct becomes effective, ministers and other authorities cannot make any announcement of any financial grants.
It said the announcement is thus "a clear violation both of the letter and spirit of the Model Code of Conduct."
In his reply to the commission that was submitted Wednesday morning, Moily said there has been widespread demand from all sections of society, particularly women, for raising the cap on supply of domestic LPG cylinders.
In an event Tuesday, Moily told reporters 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 was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, it would also decide on raising the cap.
Asked about the time-frame for the decision, he had 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 had 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.