Vol 3, PW 15 (18 Aug 99) People & Policy

Like most Indian politicians, Indias junior oil minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar does not miss a chance to get publicity.

Forthcoming general elections have increased his quest for publicity to such an extent that he decided to exploit the fate of soldiers injured in the recent war with Pakistan in Kargil. Accompanied by a group of personal security men and a battery of TV and still cameramen, plus a couple of local journalists, Gangwar visited the Army Base Hospital in Srinagar, ostensibly to show solidarity with the injured soldiers.

Little did he realise it was not his cosy office in Shastri Bhavan, where he could walk in unchecked, but an army hospital where no one knew who he was. Security men at the hospital flatly refused to let him in saying he did not have permission.

Gangwars staff tried to argue that, "he is a central minister, after all", but this did not impress the army. Then followed a burst of activity, with officials accompanying the minister running from pillar to post to secure the required permission.

It took them more than one hour, during which time Gangwar, increasingly impatient, was made to wait outside the hospital. When he was finally allowed in, the army men insured that the battery of cameramen and journalists accompanying him were not allowed in through the door.

A crestfallen minister went through the motions of meeting the injured soldiers, knowing full well that the real purpose of his visit - to get publicity - was defeated by the security personnel at the hospital door.

LNG Summit