The Election Commission on Wednesday strongly disapproved Oil Minister Veerappa Moily's announcement of raising subsidised LPG quota ahead of Gujarat elections and asked him to be circumspect in future.
The commission, after considering Moily explanation on the issue, held that the announcement made by him is a clear violation of both the letter and spirit of the Model Code of Conduct but let him off with a warning.
"The commission hereby conveys its strong disapproval of your action and cautions you to be circumspect in future," said the EC order to Moily.
The poll body's order said that the minister's statement that there will be an increase in the number of subsidised gas cylinders from six to nine in a year "tantamount to announcement of financial grant in the form of increased subsidy, and is clear violation both of the letter and spirit of the Model Code of Conduct."
The EC said, "such statement does have an impact on the minds of electors in the state of Gujarat where the poll is scheduled on December 13 and 17."
The election authority's order came after it took strong Moily's statement that the Centre is likely to increase the cap on subsidised LPG cylinders ahead of the Gujarat elections and asked the government to stop it forthwith.
Taking suo moto cognizance of Moily's announcement, the EC held its emergency meeting on Tuesday and sought his explanation on the issue.
The poll body has said that Part VII of the Model Code of Conduct, which is in force now in view of Gujarat elections, pertains to the party in power and specifically states that the party in power shall ensure that no cause is given for any complaint that it has used its official position for the purposes of its election campaign.
It further provides that ministers and other authorities shall not announce any financial grants in any form or promises thereof.
While considering Moily's reply, the commission said that he has not denied having made the statement pertaining to raising the cap on subsidised LPG and it has taken exception to his statement.
It said that though the government is yet to take a decision in the matter, it is clear from the reply that the number of subsidised gas cylinders is being raised from the present level of six to nine cylinders in 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 commission said in its order.
The EC, after its meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath, on Tuesday shot off two separate letters to the petroleum and natural gas ministry and the minister.
It had directed the ministry to immediately stop the move and also sought Moily's explanation on the issue.
Announcing the government's plan to raise the cap on LPG cylinders, Moily told reporters on Tuesday that "I think it is likely to go up definitely from six (cylinders) to 9 (cylinders)."
Moily had said the decision to raise the cap will be taken by the Cabinet "very shortly".
The government had in September capped the supply of subsidised LPG to six cylinders per household in a year. Any additional requirement is to be bought at market price of Rs 931 per 14.2-kg bottle. Subsidised LPG costs Rs 410.50 per cylinder at present.