The poll battle for Uttar Pradesh turf has taken to the skies. Most of the key players as well as a few minnows have hired helicopters and chartered planes to reach out to voters in the bellwether state ahead of the assembly elections next month.
These chartered planes and helicopters cost between Rs 50,000 and Rs 70,000 per hour. They will be used to move star campaigners across multiple venues in a day to generate maximum buzz while conforming to the election commission’s poll expenditure ceiling — Rs 16 lakh per candidate in an assembly constituency in a major state.
The Congress, which has a large number of leaders under SPG cover, is set to use the highest number of aircraft. “The party will use eight helicopters and four planes for leaders such as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Digvijaya Singh and Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit,” said state Congress spokesperson Hilal Naqvi.
State Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi said, “Every vote is precious. The party is planning the movement of star campaigners very strategically.” The ruling BSP has hired two planes and four helicopters for its leaders including chief minister Mayawati.
The BJP will use seven helicopters and two planes. Senior leaders LK Advani, Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Uma Bharti are expected to address meetings in remote parts of the state.
BJP state president Surya Pratap Shahi said, “Our star campaigners will be required to move quickly, but we still believe in low-cost campaigning and hard work on the ground.”
The Samajwadi Party has hired one four-seater plane and two choppers.
The RLD intends to use two helicopters for president Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Chaudhary.
The relatively small Peace Party has also hired a helicopter for its founder-president Dr Ayub Ansari and national general secretary Akhilesh Singh. The JD-U will use two helicopters for its president Sharad Yadav and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.
In 2007, the SP had used actors Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Jaya Prada as star campaigners.