Rivalry at the top of India's oil ministry

Vol 4, PW 4 (29 Mar 00) People & Policy

A veritable 'Cold War' has set in between oil minister Ram Naik and his deputy Santosh Kumar Gangwar.

A source in the oil ministry tells Petrowatch that the frostiness has become so bad, that Naik has even complained to the senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and hardline home minister LK Advani. It is understood Naik has told Advani that Gangwar does not take much interest in his official work and does not attend his office in the ministry for days at a time.

For his part, Gangwar has told Advani that Naik does not trust him with any work and does not send him files relating to areas that fall under his responsibility. Gangwar is also reported to have told Advani that Naik took more than 45 days to allocate him his work responsibilities and a longer period to provide him with a room in the ministry to enable him to attend the office.

Until the room was provided, Gangwar worked from home. Petrowatch learns that Gangwar complains further that no files - except those concerning routine parliamentary questions - are ever marked for his attention.

In one incident Gangwar sought Naiks permission to inaugurate the commercial production of the 3m t/y Numaligarh refinery in Assam, which is officially under his charge, and due to go on stream on 9th April. Naik said 'No', insisting he would attend the inaugural function himself, and conduct the formalities.

He did, however, tell Gangwar that if he wanted to accompany him, he could. It is learnt both ministers are now impatiently waiting for acabinet reshuffle in the hope they won't have to work together for much longer.