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Parties in top gear for local polls

For the first time, political parties have hired choppers for the local body poll campaigns, reports Dharmendra Jore.

india Updated: Nov 16, 2006 21:16 IST

It's flying time for senior political leaders. With little time on hand and so much at stake in the local body polls, they are using the fastest mode of transport - the choppers to reach every nook and corner of the state where polling for 168 municipal councils will be held on November 19.

And, this for the first time that almost every major party has hired helicopters for campaigning. So far, the phenomenon was limited to the Assembly and Parliamentary elections.

Of all, the Congress is really flying high. It wants crowd pullers like Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, State Congress chief Prabha Rau, All India Congress Committee general secretary Margaret Alva and Revenue Minister Narayan Rane to address maximum public rallies.

Deshmukh, now on a whirlwind tour of Vidarbha and Marathwada will attend ten meetings on Thursday and Friday. Rane is traversing independently through his fiefdom Konkan where he wants to eradicate the Shiv Sena's base.

"The cost of hiring choppers doesn't matter. We want our leaders to move faster as their time is precious," said a senior Congress functionary on condition of anonymity. According to him the flying cost runs into Rs 65-70,000 per hour.

The Congress has hired two helicopters. "The State Congress has hired the choppers and we'll submit every expense to the State Election Commission," the leader said.

Congress ally in the DF government yet closer rival in these polls, Nationalist Congress Party leaders too are making swift moves. The party wants to match the Congress in all departments.

So it has also hired a chopper to ferry seniors like Deputy Chief Minister RR Patil, Irrigation Minister Ajit Pawar, Public Works Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and Energy Minister Dilip Walse-Patil.

The Bharatiya Janata Party veteran Gopinath Munde has also been using helicopter. He took a brief stop in Pune to meet the Gandhian leader Mohan Dharia on Thursday evening. He will again take off on Friday till the campaigning ends on Saturday.

The Shiv Sena is the only party to have desisted from hiring a chopper. Party executive president Uddhav Thackeray has used domestic airliners so far.