As campaigning heats up, demand for helicopters sky high in Karnataka  

As the state does not have many agencies that rent out helicopters that are suitable for the leaders, parties reach out to agencies in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and even New Delhi. 

Published: 26th April 2023 09:42 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th April 2023 09:42 AM   |  A+A-

IAF Mi-17 helicopters (Photo | PTI)

IAF Mi-17 helicopter (Representational image | PTI)

Express News Service

BENGALURU:  With just weeks left for the May 10 Assembly polls, the state this time is seeing a higher demand for helicopters as political leaders have geared up for the heated polls. 

Ever since the nomination process began on April 13, Congress and BJP leaders, including Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, former chief minister BS Yediyurappa, KPCC president DK Shivakumar, Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramiah and others, are busy campaigning for their party candidates. They need helicopters to campaign in three to four places a day in different, distant parts of the state.

BJP sources told The New Indian Express that with airports coming up at many places, including Shivamogga and Kalaburagi, many leaders take chartered flights to reach these towns and then hop on to helicopters to campaign at nearby places. 

As the state does not have many agencies that rent out helicopters that are suitable for the leaders, parties reach out to agencies in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and even New Delhi. 

Of all the parties, BJP seems to be hiring the most number of choppers. This is because apart from local leaders, they have a stream of netas coming in from different parts of the country, including chief ministers like Yogi Adityanath. “We might need at least 40 helicopters a day, as it is not just the leaders, but their security staff and others too fly with them,” the sources said. For a few campaigners, the party has hired helicopters for the entire month.

Congress is opting for helicopters for their star campaigners, including AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge, senior leader Rahul Gandhi and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi, who are expected to campaign in various Assembly segments. The party has formed a team only to coordinate the travel and to hire choppers. The opposition party is expected to get 10 to 20 helicopters per day, and the numbers could go up.

The rentals vary depending on the engine capacity and seating. Some agencies rent them out on an hourly basis at Rs 2.10 lakh to Rs 2.30 lakh, while others give on a daily basis at Rs 7 lakh for single engine and Rs 10 lakh for double engine. All the helicopters are four-seaters. Most six-seater helicopters are hired from Hyderabad. The rent for special flights, with an eight-seater capacity, starts at Rs 12 lakh.

Poll officers watching chopper rides

Election Commission officials have kept a watch on the helicopters hired and the cost involved. Additional Chief Electoral Officer Venkatesh Kumar told The New Indian Express that the cost of hiring helicopters is like the rentals of any other vehicles that the leaders use. “If a star campaigner uses the helicopter and makes speeches without taking the name of the candidate or without sharing the dais with the candidate, then the entire expenditure is on the party. If a campaigner uses the name of the candidate or shares the dais with the candidate, then the expenditure is divided equally between the party and the candidate at 50 per cent each,” he said. 

Those who want to use helicopters have to take permission from the district election officer, the local deputy commissioner. Through the Suvidha app, they can apply online while hiring vehicles, including helicopters. For those who own helicopters, the flying time is considered for the rent and the cost accrued to the candidates.


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