New Delhi: There was no directive from the government to cap oil prices in the run-up to the Karnataka elections, state-run oil firm Indian Oil Corporation said today, addressing an issue that has come under sharp focus since prices started a relentless climb nine days ago.
Retail oil prices in India are revised in the country from day to day. But for 19 days in the run-up to the Karnataka elections -- which were held on May 12 -- there was no hike. Price revisions started after that, triggering opposition accusations of the government was playing politics ahead of elections.
Today, IOC chairman Sanjeev Singh said it was an internal decision of the firm to "moderate" the prices "because we were expecting them to fall".
"The government has given us the freedom to revise prices daily. We are following that formula. We took a call (in those 19 days)... we believed that the trends that were happening were not supported by fundamentals," Mr Singh told reporters this evening.
Blaming the international rise in crude oil prices on fresh US sanctions on Iran, he said the company cannot operate if prices don't match global prices. Under the circumstances, he said they had "no choice but to increase prices".
The remarks from the IOC came ahead of the officials' meeting with petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, which is expected to take place tomorrow. Making the announcement, BJP chief Amit Shah said, "We are working out a formula to reduce the prices".
Reduction in oil prices, which are tied to international market, can happen only if excise duty is reduced, in which case the Centre and state governments bear the loss, or the oil firms directly bear the loss.
Mr Singh, however, indicated that there was no room to tinker with prices from the firms' end.
"We are not making extra money on high price. This isn't extra money going into the company's kitty. The company doesn't operate at high profit margins. It is a complete call that has to be taken by stakeholders," he said.
Regarding the demand by a section of the opposition that instead of the super-high excise duty, the flagship Goods and Services be applied, he said he too, was for it.
Officials in oil ministry told NDTV that it is for the finance ministry to take a decision "to make headway in terms of excise and VAT... We would ideally like to have GST but this is a state subject".