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Hint of LPG cap review

New Delhi, Nov. 9: An outcry against the LPG policy at the day-long Surajkund Congress conclave today forced Veerappa Moily to assure the party of some relaxation on the cap of six subsidised cylinders.

As most speakers disagreed with the cap and stressed that it could impact the party’s poll fortunes, the petroleum minister said: “We are already examining the matter. I will consult the Prime Minister and the finance minister and see how we can provide relief.”

Sonia Gandhi had communicated to the government the extreme unease in the party over the LPG cap, despite the broad support for tough decisions to restart the growth process, reduce subsidy and improve the investment climate.

At today’s meet, some ministers acknowledged that the LPG decision had become dangerously unpopular.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister P. Chidambaram, who did their best to prepare the party for tough decisions, did not defend the LPG cap in particular though they explained the burden of petroleum subsidy. Singh said the government had spent Rs 1,40,000 crore on petroleum subsidy in 2011-12. Chidambaram sought the party’s backing for fiscal consolidation efforts.

The party leaders’ annoyance at the LPG decision came despite Singh’s forceful articulation of the need to strengthen the economy.

“If we all understand that economic challenges have to be faced boldly, taking India on the path of development and prosperity would become easier. Without high growth, we cannot sustain schemes to fight education, poverty and unemployment,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the party should not forget in the din over tough measures that no government ran as many welfare schemes as the UPA.

Several leaders tried to explain that there was no schism between the party and the government and many staunch advocates of economic reform also contested elections. Chidambaram stressed the importance of the task of bringing the country out of economic stagnation.

There was broad understanding of the economic logic put forward by government officials but a dominant section wanted greater appreciation of the sentiment of the masses ahead of elections. Sonia hinted that the UPA should move cautiously and help the party reclaim its aam aadmi plank before 2014.

Singh and Chidambaram assured the party of a good budget next year if revenue generation picked up in the remaining part of the current fiscal.

Sonia asked ministers to refer to promises made in the manifesto and deliver before it was too late. Most speakers wanted election tickets to be finalised well in advance.

Except the Prime Minister, all ministers and party leaders, including Sonia and Rahul, reached the venue by bus and stayed back for the six-hour deliberations. Of the 70 invitees, 66 were present and 40 spoke.