BJP slams Deora on fuel price cut remark

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 27 2008, 04:37am hrs
Accusations of upsetting the level-playing field hit the already peaking campaign for ongoing assembly elections as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday, crying foul over Centres announcement to reduce fuel prices after December 24, threatened to move the Election Commission for violation of the model code of conduct.

The announcement will certainly benefit the ruling coalition at the Centre and we will file a complaint with the Election Commission, BJP leader VK Malhotra, chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, told reporters here.

Petroleum minister Murli Deora earlier in the day had asserted that the government would bring down prices of petrol and diesel once elections in the five states were over.

There were indications, however, from the Commission that Deoras remarks may not amount to violation of the poll code as it was an economic decision of importance to the entire country. The government too rejected the opposition charge with finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram contending that there is no violation of the code of conduct.

The BJP, however, insisted that there was a clear violation. It is a patent violation of the model code of conduct. The court is very clear. When the elections are on, you cannot make any official announcement which directly or indirectly influences the voters course of action, national spokepserson Ravi Shankar Prasad said. The Left parties in taking exception to the governments announcement, suggesting that there was a political motive behind the move to signal a reduction in prices of petroleum products in coming days at this juncture, joined him. The Left parties, incidentally, along with the TDP and JD(S) had on Monday demanded that prices of petrol and diesel be brought down and had said it would hold protests on December 2 against the government inaction.

The Commisson earlier pulled up agriculture minister Sharad Pawar during the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections when he had announced a relief package and an export subsidy for sugar mills in Pune. As a result of the notice to Pawar, the EC had then asked then Cabinet secretary BK Chaturvedi to issue clear guidelines to all ministries and government departments that permission must be sought before making any announcements that can have a bearing on the elections. The EC had then maintained that Pawars announcement was the third time when the government and its ministers, had violated the model code of conduct.

The Congress, meanwhile, sought to turn the table on the BJP this evening by posing the question whether they were anti-people and against the cut in petrol prices.