Open jeeps or SUVs for election campaigning are now passe. Politicians of the Hindi heartland are now turning to customised luxury vans to undertake whirlwind election campaigns.
Refurbishing the interiors of a customised campaign vehicle from Koyas and Sons, which are virtually luxurious apartments on wheels, can cost up to Rs 3-5lakhs. (HT photo)
Called election campaign vehicles, these state-of-the-art mobile home-cum-office on wheels allows them to eat, sleep, relax and address their voters while on the move.
Many luxury utility vehicle makers in Delhi and NCR say that there is a huge spurt in demand for election campaign vehicles this poll season.
“I have already supplied about 27 luxury election vehicles to candidates of parties such as the Congress, BJP and Samajwadi Party,” says Raju Babbar, president, Babbar Raju Mobile, a Gurgaon-based firm that makes multi-utility vehicles such as caravans, vanity vans, mobile conference rooms for celebrities, industrialists and corporate houses.
These plush election vehicles boast of features such as a rooftop stage, hydraulic lifts for public address, automatic sun-roof, a lounge, workstations with computers, beds, toilets, a bathroom with shower, kitchen, refrigerator, LCD TVs, etc.
“So far, we have built about 20 election campaign vehicles, this election season. The most important features of these vehicles are the hydraulic stage and a public address system, which enables them to stop at various locations and address the crowds without stepping out of the vehicle. Unlike a vanity van, which has a large area for make-up, an election van has more sitting tables,” says Rishi Aggarwal, managing director, JBCL, a company which specializes in designing luxury utility vehicles, including Election Campaign Vans.
Aggarwal, has in the past designed vehicles for UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and the late Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Rajashekhar Reddy.
It takes about a month to finish these vehicles, which are built on chassis of Force Tempo Traveller, Mazda, Toyota, etc., and most orders come a few months in advance. The cost ranges from Rs. 5 lakh to Rs. 50 lakh, mainly depending on the size and features of the vehicle. It would be much more if a politician asks for a bullet- proof or armoured vehicle. Election campaign vehicle designers say politicians from states such as Chhattisgarh often want armoured vehicles.
“We have delivered seven election vehicles to politicians in UP, Rajasthan and Karnataka for this Lok Sabha elections. We have made election vehicles for politicians such as former prime minister HD Deve Gowda and Dr KL Meena in the previous Lok Sabha elections,” says Bhalinder Singh, director, Delhi-based LAC Auto Designers.
“Most of our orders are from politicians from Bihar and UP who have to campaign in rural areas where there are not many places to stay or take rest. Many politicians want us to do branding on the outside of the bus and paint it with their and their party leaders’ pictures and slogans,” says Sanjay Saini, CEO, Caravan Conversion, a Delhi-based company that makes customized caravans.
And so, who foots the bill for this luxury on wheels? In case of senior leaders, the party pays for it; otherwise, many businessmen gift it to their political friends.
In fact, many candidates who cannot afford to a buy a customized election vehicle prefer to rent such vehicles. Our rent ranges from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 15,000 a day,” says Saini.