New Delhi: A day after Election Commission rap, Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister M Veerappa Moily on Wednesday said the government has not yet taken any decision on raising cap on supply of subsidised LPG cylinders and the EC would have been informed before announcing any decision. "If the proposals had been concretised and it was to be announced or decision was to be taken... I would have definitely written to Election Commission of India," Moily said in New Delhi.
Moily said the government had consistently maintained that the decision to cap supply of subsidised cooking gas (LPG) to six cylinders per household in a year is under review following widespread demands and he had reiterated the same position in reply to media queries on sidelines of a CII function in New Delhi on Tuesday.
"Not that I would like to do anything for political gain behind the back of Election Commission. That is not our intention. We are very clear about it. We are very transparent and objective about it," he said.
The Election Commission had taken a strong exception to Moily's statements ahead of the elections in Gujarat, that the cap would be increased to nine cylinders, and sought his explanation. In his formal response, Moily said: "The Government is yet to take a decision in the matter. As such my response to media queries... should not be treated as an announcement regarding decision of the government."
"I would like to assure you that due regard to the applicable rules and procedures of the Election Commission of India shall be given as and when a decision in this regard is taken by the government," he wrote.
Moily said there have been widespread demands including from about 100 Congress MPs, several chief ministers and union ministers, for revisiting the decision as only six cylinders per household was "not practical and away from reality". "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 of India," he added.
Moily said consequent on capping the number of cylinders, number of issues came up and concerns have been expressed particularly from the women. He admitted that consumption of cylinders in urban area was different than the same in rural areas and there were distribution problems in North-East, Jammu & Kashmir and other far flung places. Also, concerns had been expressed by many chief ministers, Union ministers and even by "our own Congress MPs exceeding 100 who have represented to the Prime Minister that the capping is not proper," he said.
"I cannot say I should shut out my mind, I should shut my heart, shut my ears and I should shut out by voice (on these concerns)," Moily said, adding he had informally talked to one of the Election Commissioners on these concerns. "I was about to write to them to exclude (poll bound) Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat," he said but did not say what was the response of the Election Commissioner with whom he had discussed the issue.
As per the September 13 decision, every household could avail of six LPG cylinders of 14.2-kg at subsidised rate of Rs 410.50 per bottle. Any requirement beyond will cost the market rate of of Rs 931 per cylinder.
Only 44 per cent of households in the country consume six cylinders in a year, while the majority consume 9-12 bottles. Moily had on Tuesday stated that the decision to raise the cap will be taken by the Cabinet "very shortly" and that he has had two rounds of discussions with Finance Minister P Chidambaram on the impact of the decision to raise the cap. The government will have to provide an additional Rs 9,000 crore annually if the cap is raised to nine cylinders.