#NoVIP? Not for Aviation Minister, Who Carries Matchboxes on Planes

Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapthi Raju

New Delhi:

Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju today declared that he can carry a matchbox onto a plane because he is not frisked on account of his position in the government.

"Once I became minister, people stopped frisking me, so (a) matchbox, which used to be confiscated, came along with me," the 63-year-old minister said, describing himself as "a heavy smoker".

Matchboxes and lighters are among the items that passengers are forbidden from taking on board. "I have yet to come across an incident worldwide where a matchbox became a threat," the minister said, following his comment with laughter.

Mr Raju is a senior leader of the Telugu Desam Party or TDP, which is a member of the Prime Minister's coalition government. In September, he was widely commended after reportedly ordering that there should be minimum fuss around him when he is at airports in order to ensure other passengers are not inconvenienced.

The minister's comments come amid a national debate about VIPs flaunting and abusing the privileges accorded to them. Arvind Kejriwal's two-year-old Aam Aadmi Party or AAP won wide support for its commitment to deracinate VIP culture from those elected to office, but over the weekend, its leaders were seen using special gates and enclosures to enter a large public event in Delhi, causing large traffic jams for commuters.