The love of leaders in Punjab for helicopter rides, especially during the elections, costs their parties heavily.
Although, almost all political parties hired helicopters for election campaign during the last assembly polls in Punjab, yet the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was a step ahead and hired helicopters for its leaders even for 5-minute flights within a city.
As per details of the expenditure of the SAD, submitted to the election commission (EC) of India, the party had hired helicopters of five different companies to arrange 82 rides in helicopters for its leaders. Interestingly, 25 flights were for below 25-minute distances for which cars could have been used, saving a lot of money.
During two-and-a-half months (from the announcements of the polls on 24/12/2011 to 9/3/2012), the party had paid a total of
Rs 1,41,93,726 to these five companies, including Rs 6,51,697 to Air Charter Services, Rs 10,91,970 to Excel Aviations, Rs 91,83,438 to Global Vectra Helicorp, Rs 30,09,722 to Orbit Aviations and `2,56,999 to Saraya Aviations.
Interestingly, on December 31, 2011 and January 1, 2012, the party had also arranged helicopters for its leaders for two 5-minute flights within Amritsar.
Besides a return flight from Delhi to Mumbai on February 22, 2012, for which the party had paid Rs 6,35,328, and 11 flights to Delhi from different districts of Punjab, most of other flights were made within the state.
Also, the party had paid Rs 2,27,770, to arrange a helicopter for the return flight the same day from Delhi to Sirsa of Haryana. Moreover, besides the separate expenditure of candidates in their respective constituencies, the party had also paid Rs 1,08,723 for cars and other four-wheelers to ferry its leaders.
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC ) had paid Rs 48,400 for helicopters in Punjab, while the All India Congress Committee (AICC) had paid a huge amount of Rs 37, 10,62,018 to arrange VVIP rides in helicopters for its leaders monitoring assembly elections in Punjab, Manipur, Goa, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
Similarly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which also contested the Punjab assembly election in alliance with the SAD and fielded its candidates on 23 seats, paid Rs 70,497 for helicopters and aircraft and Rs 5,24,516 for cars. Moreover, the party had also spent a total of Rs 11, 27,25,538 to arrange helicopters and aircraft for its leaders for campaigning in five states, including Punjab, for assembly polls.