Deora remark on fuel price draws EC ire

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 27 2008, 08:48am hrs
The row over Centres intent to cut fuel prices once the assembly poll process is over, picked up steam as the Election Commission on Wednesday issued a notice to petroleum minister Murli Deora in the wake of opposition BJP moving to the poll body.

The EC has sought an explanation from Deora by Thursday afternoon for his reported remarks signaling a likely reduction in petrol prices next month. The international prices have fallen and there is an expectation that prices need to be reduced. I am also of the opinion that they should be reduced and that will happen after December 24, the minister had said on Tuesday. The Congress camp, however, remained confident that there was no violation of the model code of conduct by the minister as it stepped up attack on the BJP for attempting to score political brownie points on the issue. The BJP itself kept on asking for petrol price reduction earlier. But now, they are saying there should not be any announcement. What do you make of it asked senior minister Kapil Sibal on Wednesday evening.

On Wednesday, an upset Deora insisted that that he had not done anything wrong. I am upset over these reports. I would never do something knowingly, he said adding that he had been in public life for 45 years and that he had never been issued any notice before.

Deora also refused to openly acknowledge that he had sent a note to Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi outlining the extent of the proposed price cut of petroleum products. These are things I would not like to discuss,he said. The BJP, on the other hand, charged that Deora had violated the poll code. In its petition to the EC, the opposition maintained that the minister had given a firm indication that the Cabinet will take an appropriate decision to bring down prices after the conclusion of the ongoing assembly elections.

The timing of the statement in reference is clearly indicative of a deliberate attempt on the part of the Congress party to influence the voters in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and J&K elections the party said in its petition. For the purposes of the model code of conduct, it is not necessary that a policy announcement coming into force with immediate effect alone is prohibited. A firm indication of a scheduled announcement is equally reprehensible. it added.

Consequently, we request the Commission to issue an appropriate notice to the Congress party and initiate the required punitive action under the symbols rules, it said.