The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Oil pump Ordinance on back burner

New Delhi, Aug. 24: The Union Cabinet today decided to defer the move to introduce an Ordinance to give weight to the prime ministerial fiat cancelling petrol pump allotments made during the BJP’s reign.

The decision was taken as the Cabinet felt such an Ordinance would interfere with the judicial process as the Supreme Court was to take up the merits of the PM’s decision at a hearing slated for Monday.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had cancelled all allotments made through dealer selection boards after a furore in Parliament over allegations that BJP partymen’s kith and kin had been favoured with petroleum dealerships.

Even before the Cabinet meeting, the petroleum ministry’s move for an Ordinance was dubbed by the law ministry as untenable.

The spin doctors at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) also considered the move “dangerous” at this point as the Opposition may attack the Ordinance as an attempt to take the case out of the hands of the judiciary.

Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi had already raised her voice against the proposed Ordinance.

Petroleum minister Ram Naik told newspersons that a decision could not be taken as several ministers had queries on the fate of dealerships awarded to ex-servicemen and war widows.

“It (the Ordinance) has been deferred for further discussion. There were queries on allotments made to war widows and other special category persons. We have to decide on them,” Naik said.

The petroleum ministry, he said, would come out with a revised proposal for an amendment taking into account allotments made to special category persons—sportsmen and physically handicapped—besides war widows and ex-servicemen.

The prime ministerial fiat has cancelled in all some 3,565 allotments of which as many as 2,131 pumps and agencies have already been commissioned.

In a bid to deflect the continued media attack on the petrol pump scam, Naik yesterday announced a probe into all allotments of petrol pumps and cooking gas agencies made between 1983 and 2000.

Although the probe has started, sources claimed the “PMO has given strict instructions that these allotments should not be cancelled.”

The aim of the exercise is to embarrass the Congress and impress the judiciary that the malaise was far too deep-rooted to be washed away by merely acting against allotments made during the BJP rule.

The information gleaned from the probe—showing which relatives of which politician was given a petrol pump or cooking gas dealership—is to be put up on the internet.

The ministry has already asked the state-run petroleum companies like Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and HPCL to provide it with periodwise details—especially those related to allotments between 1983 and 1989 when Indira Gandhi and later her son Rajiv Gandhi were prime ministers and those made during the tenure of the Narasimha Rao government between 1989 and 1991.

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