EC tells govt to hold LPG cap hike

Election commission

Hours after petroleum minister M Veerappa Moily announced Tuesday that the cap on subsidised LPG cylinders would be raised to nine from six per household, the Election Commission took strong exception to the move and dashed off a stern letter to him and his ministry, seeking an explanation and directing that the decision be put on hold immediately.

The EC wrote to Moily asking him to give his explanation by 11 am Wednesday.

Last week, the poll body had also taken exception to the government's announcement on direct cash transfers, saying that it could have been avoided. It had also directed the government to put on hold decisions relating to the scheme in six districts of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

Moily made the announcement on increasing the cap on subsidised LPG cylinders on the sidelines of a CII event in the capital. "I think it is likely to go up, definitely from six to nine," he told reporters outside the venue. Moily also said that he had held two rounds of discussions with finance minister P Chidambaram on the issue. He said the decision would be taken by the cabinet very shortly.

"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 commission has desired that you explain your above action at this juncture," said the letter by Harbans Singh, secretary in the Election Commission.

In another letter to the petroleum secretary, the poll body wrote: "As you are aware, election process to the legislative assemblies of the states of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh is currently on and the model code of conduct is in operation. As such commission directs that move for the reported increase in supply of subsidised gas cylinders, if any, must be stopped forthwith under confirmation to the commission (sic)."

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