Election fans charter boom as leaders seek copters and jets
“At 46 degrees (Celsius), my gaadis are getting stalled,” the charter operator in Bhopal says, asking not to be named. He is talking of helicopters as though they were local taxis. He has six of them, all at the disposal of the Congress Party.business Updated: Apr 21, 2009 22:07 IST
“At 46 degrees (Celsius), my gaadis are getting stalled,” the charter operator in Bhopal says, asking not to be named. He is talking of helicopters as though they were local taxis. He has six of them, all at the disposal of the Congress Party.
The heat is challenging the engines, but the dusty general election campaign this year is fanning hot demand, giving an oasis of boom and attractive profits amid an economic downturn for chartered flight operators.
According to industry estimates, different political parties across the country have chartered as many as 60 private helicopters to ferry their netas across the length and breadth of the country.
Helicopter charters do not come cheap.
A 10-seater could cost Rs 2 lakh an hour, a four-seater Rs 75,000 per hour. They can be rented for a minimum of five hours.
Congress leads the pack as far as charters go. It has chartered at least 6 to 7 helicopters from the state-run Pawan Hans Helicopters and another 7 from Bhopal based Oasis Aviation.
Industry sources say the Bhartiya Janata Party has also chartered a similar number of helicopters. It has also chartered a top line business jet to ferry its prime ministerial candidate- Lal Krishna Advani.
“Congress has chartered two twin-engine 10 seater Dauphin helicopters for Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The four seater helicopter has been chartered for Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders,” said an industry official, who did not wish to be identified.
Regional party leaders are also keen copter users.
Lalu Yadav has a six-seater Eurocopter, Sharad Yadav a five-seater Bell and Sharad Pawar is flying in a 7-seater helicopter -- all hired from Bangalore based Deccan Aviation.
“Other than ferrying political leaders helicopters are a great crowd puller,” said Colonel Jayant Poovaiah, executive director at Deccan.
“General elections is the best time for any helicopter operator,” said Niraj Bhatia, managing director of Summit Aviation, whose firm’s clients include BJP and Bahujan Samaj Party. They will be used for about a month.