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Star campaigners log chopper air smiles in poll lands

Maximum demand for helicopters has been in India's politically most crucial state, Uttar Pradesh, where, at least 15 helicopters have been crisscrossing the skies bearing leaders.

Published: 19th February 2017 12:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th February 2017 07:19 AM   |  A+A-

The Election Commission has issued strict guidelines for electioneering parties to submit consolidated expense statement including the number of aircraft/chopper used

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Until demonetization crash-landed election funds, the sky was the limit for politicians whose favorite hop-stop-hop campaign craft were helicopters. However, this time, parties would have
spent nearly Rs 80 crore on helicopter campaigns in UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa. 

BJP tops the list of the number of helicopters hired, spending Rs 30 crore on five upgraded twin-engine flying machines like Bell 412 and  Agusta AW 139.  During the 2015 Bihar Assembly elections, it hired six. Sawajwadi Party is the next rotor savvy party, with a budget of nearly Rs. 25 crore for two months of aggressive, sustained campaigning. Both BSP boss Mayawati and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi have been flying economy class, sepnding Rs. 8 crore and Rs  crore each to stay in the air using just two choppers. 

Unsurprisingly, the maximum demand for the helicopters is in India's largest and politically most crucial state, Uttar Pradesh, where, at least 15 helicopters have been crisscrossing the skies bearing leaders fighting for the coveted prize. Choppers landed across UP and Uttarakhand bearing BJP's maximum star campaigners like Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitely, Smriti Irani, Uma Bharati, Gen VK
Singh, Mahesh Sharma and Hema Malini.

In comparison, only Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi have been flying for the party. It cut down chopper hours after striking an alliance with SP to maximize the cost
benefit. Parties booked choppers six months in advance, anticipating a last minute rush. Helicopters provide the edge in covering the maximum rallies within a limited time frame. Compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when 75 helicopters were hired at rates ranged from Rs 2.5 lakh per hour to 3.25 per hours, for stats including UP, Haryana, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh. the rates are stable this time, said an industry insider. Parties use choppers to ferry their star campaigners to the hinterland where airstrips do not exist.

The Election Commission has issued strict guidelines for electioneering parties to submit consolidated expense statement including the number of aircraft/chopper used and sorties made during campaign with details of the company, flying hours and money paid. It has fixed an expenditure cap of Rs. 28 lakh per candidate for a legislative seat.

Party wise details of favoured choppers

SP Bell 412, Agusta 109, Bell 407, Eurocopter- B5
BJP  Bell 412, AW 139, Agusta 109 C, Bell 429
Congress Agusta 109, Bell 407
BSP Bell- 429

Major aviation players, who provided choppers to politicians

  • Global Vectra
  • Orbit Aviation
  • Span Aviation pvt ltd
  • Saarthi Aviation PvtLtd
  • Air charter Services Pvt Ltd
  • Ligare Aviation Pvt Ltd
  • India Flysafe Aviation ltd
  • Span Air Pvt Ltd
  • Heligo Charters pvt ltd


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