New Delhi: A day after the government rolled back the hike in prices of non-subsidised LPG cylinders, Oil Minister M. Veerappa Moily said oil companies were free decide whether to raise the LPG subsidy cap.

Speaking to a television channel on Friday, the new oil minister said we should let oil marketing companies (OMCs) decide if they want to raise the LPG subsidy cap as this is not a ministry decision. The minister's remark is being seen as a sign that the Congress party is worried about the impact of the cap on subsidised cylinders on the Nov 4 assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, where Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)  are perceived to be locked in a close race.

The crucial Gujarat elections are a little over a month away. Last month, the government had notified a record hike in diesel prices and capped the subsidy on cooking gas for individual households to six cylinders a year. The move was aimed to control the high oil subsidy bill, and cut losses of OMCs Indian Oil Corp, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum.

The measures were part of a slew of reforms implemented by the government. Any reversal would require the consent of the finance ministry and the Prime Minister's Office. However, as indicated by the minister Friday about the freedom of OMCs, raising the subsidy limit on cooking gas could involve a streamlining of procedures  rather than a wholesale rollback.

(Agencies)

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