Lal Krishna Advani has been criss-crossing the country on a Bell 412 helicopter that had done only 150 hours of flying. He uses it whether he is in Puri or Pune. His aide, Deepak Chopra, ensures the machine gets enough rest before it takes Advani to rallies after he arrives at a hub from Delhi in a special executive jet everyday. An ex-Indian Air Force pilot and ex-Research and Analysis Wing hand handle it. In all, Advani has done 80 rallies for the last two phases of elections. The first thing Chopra did to make the blue chopper more comfortable for Advani was to turn it from a 13-seater to an eight-seater. Given Advani’s height, he needed more leg space. But that needed Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s clearance as any change inside the aircraft or outside needs a certificate of airworthiness.
Law of loyalty in evidence
Nobody can beat Congress stalwarts when it comes to proving their loyalty for the Gandhi family. One who seems to have mastered the art is Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj. The trusted family lawyer was with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi when both of them filed their nominations in Rae Bareli and Amethi in 2004. This time, being a central minister, the Model Code of Conduct prevented him from being there. But, he ensured that his lawyer son and brother-in-law were there to take care of the legal requirements of the family.
A cropper in a chopper
Senior Akali leader Balwinder Singh Bhunder got a bit of a fright recently when he almost got flung out of a chopper while flying with Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. As soon as the chopper took off, one of the windows opened and Bhunder was thrown out of the cabin. It took a while before Sukhbir could pull him back inside. All’s well that ends well. But another senior Akali leader Captain Kanwaljit Singh was not so lucky. He died in a car mishap three weeks ago.
Take-off could land badly
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah left for Saudi Arabia to perform ‘Umrah’ (mini Haj) in the midst of the Lok Sabha elections. He also took some mediapersons along with him. Many National Conference leaders were upset at Omar’s timing and felt that his absence from campaigning at this crucial time would cost the party dear. With the rival People’s Democratic Party having launched an aggressive campaign across Kashmir, the NC was lagging behind, they felt.
The omissions of commission
After being at odds with each other for months, the outgoing Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami and his successor Navin Chawla appeared to have patched up on Gopalaswami’s last day in office. But the man who defended Chawla vehemently, Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj, made his displeasure known to Gopalaswami for having recommended Chawla’s removal on charges of partisan behaviour. Neither he nor anyone from his ministry — which represents the Election Commission in the government — attended a special farewell dinner hosted for Gopalaswami where Chawla and the other Election Commissioner, S.Y. Quraishi, were present.