• Now petrol pumps want an exemption on code of conduct

    Public-sector oil marketing companies, Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL), have approached the petroleum ministry to seek an exemption from the election commission for going ahead with the allotment of at least 31,800 petrol pumps.

    The companies had opened bids for at least 78,493 petrol stations across the country, and advertisements for the same were issued in November. But only just over 31,000 could be finalised before the Election Commission announced the schedule for the general elections, thus triggering the model code of conduct.

    The Business Standard reports that the oil companies are seeking an exemption so that the bids that were finalised before the model code of conduct came into force can be processed.

    “OMCs are of the view that as the decision on clearing 31,800 outlets were taken prior to the elections and since it was a business decision by the companies, the election commission is unlikely to have an objection on it. The three companies put together had got over 400,000 applications for the total 74,608 or 95% of the areas that were on offer,” the report quotes an unnamed source as saying.

    The central government has no direct role in issuing bids for petrol pumps. But it does control the oil companies that issue the bid. Hence, early reports said the oil ministry officials and company executives wanted to play it safe and not go ahead with the process.

    But that has now changed. It is not that oil marketing companies have been unbiased on election campaigning. As reported in the March 13 newsletter, hoardings at petrol pumps have been a source of controversy for years.

    This year too, many petrol pumps have huge billboards advertising various government schemes, in violation of the model code of conduct. A consortium representing dealers had alleged last year that they had received “verbal advisory” from oil companies to put up posters of PM Modi at their retail outlets ahead of 2019 elections.

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