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HindustanTimes Wed,26 Nov 2014

EC says no to UPA's economic push

Chetan Chauhan , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, March 22, 2014
First Published: 18:39 IST(22/3/2014) | Last Updated: 18:42 IST(22/3/2014)

It will not be business as usual for the UPA, thanks to Election Commission.

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The poll watchdog will be imposing curbs on the government's effort to push its economic agenda. The commission is likely to ask the government not to increase gas prices from April 1 and allow foreign direct investment in the construction and real estate sectors.

Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday had asked the commission not to allow the government to implement its decision to increase gas prices till the election process was over.

"This policy decision, which the government is set to implement from April 1 is a clear violation of the model code since it is directly aimed at providing huge financial benefits to Reliance Industries Limited and falls within the ambit of corrupt practices during elections," Kejriwal had said in his letter to EC.

Reliance Industries had denied his claim saying the gas price issue was based on a pricing formula. The government had decided to double the domestic gas price from April 1 keeping in view the high cost of imported gas. Petroleum minister Veerappa Moily before the elections were announced on March 5 had said that the government would increase gas price despite opposition.

An EC functionary, however, wondered at the hurry in implementing the new pricing formula. "Postponing the gas price decision for two months will not make any difference to the company but would help in ensuring level playing field in the elections," the functionary said.

The EC will be informing the government that enforcing the new gas prices would amount to violation of the model code and therefore, the government should defer its decision.

That's not all.

The EC is also not keen in allowing the UPA government to allow Foreign Direct Investment in construction and railways amid elections. The department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) has sought EC's approval to allow 100% FDI in the two sectors saying the decision in this regard was taken in August 2013.

The EC has raised objections to the DIPP proposal saying it could have electoral implications. The EC, officials say, is not inclined to agree with the proposal and would be asking the government to defer it till elections get over.


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