For political parties in southern India, election manifestos and selection of candidates can wait. Not their leaders’ customised campaign vehicles sourced from a garage in Coimbatore, 430km southwest of Chennai.
Koyas and Sons began rolling out luxurious raths (chariots) for politicians much before BJP stalwart L K Advani made them fashionable with his Rath Yatra in 1990.
AIADMK head and Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa swears by their luxury on wheels, so do rival DMK chief M Karunanidhi and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy.
Amma, as Jayalalithaa is called, had a sophisticated ‘Koya rath’ — her second this poll season — delivered on Monday.
Kalaignar (Karunanidhi) and his younger son MK Stalin have already been driving around in the ones the garage designed for them.
DMK leader TR Baalu, PMK chief Ramadoss and Vijayakanth of DMDK have not ordered theirs; the ones they had for the 2011 assembly elections in Tamil Nadu are as good as new.
According to the garage’s managing partner PV Mohammed Riaz, a campaign vehicle — essentially a tempo traveller — is virtually a luxury apartment on wheels.
From toilet, sofa cum beds, recliners, refrigerator and microwave to TV, sensors and wifi internet facility, it has everything one can ask for.
Depending on requirement, refurbishing the interiors of a campaign vehicle costs `3-5lakh. Each takes at least a month to complete, and political parties order well in advance to get theirs on time.
“But these campaign vehicles are season business. Our main activity throughout the year is refurbishing caravans for film stars and other VIPs,” Riaz said, adding the most important aspect they keep in mind is a client’s riding comfort. The comfort factor had made former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi refurbish his Ambassador at Koyas and Sons. Gandhi was impressed by what the garage had done to former Kerala chief minister M Karunakaran’s car.
Ditto with film stars Rajinikanth and Amitabh Bachchan, who had their caravans redone by Koyas.