SUVs lead the Lok Sabha rath race
If the Election Commission forced Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani to undertake his election campaign in a Swaraj Mazda bus instead of an Indian Air Force chopper, then the rough and tumble of the road trip is making even that journey difficult.
Plagued by ‘technical problems’ the luxuriously done up bus, is probably giving Advani sleepless nights. But Advani is not the only one having transportation problems. Congress heavy weight Ahmed Patel had a narrow escape when the chopper he was in collapsed in Gujarat.
Several other politicians are making plans to campaign in sturdy SUVs or modified buses and mini trucks.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu had taken to the campaign trail in his trusty Ambassadors but shaken by the naxal attack last year and stirred by the rath mania gripping politicos, he is putting together a bullet-proof, hi-tech, fully air-conditioned chariot to enable him to make inroads into difficult and sensitive terrains.
Omar Abdullah is also not taking any chances. After Mufti Mohammad Sayed’s stage at a public meeting was blown away, Omar is going for his election meetings with his own stage — erected atop a bus — for ‘security reasons’.
The ubiquitous Jeep of yesteryears now seems to have been made way for the swankier Tata Safari, Mahindra Scorpio or Toyota Qualis.
Leading the way is Congress president Sonia Gandhi who was seen travelling in Safaris during the Haryana and Himachal Pradesh legs of her road shows. Another leader who loves the Safari is MP Chief Minister Uma Bharti. During her campaign in November last, she would drive herself from one venue to another. “If she had to go by chopper to any place, she would insist on a Safari at the new venue as well,” revealed a close associate of Uma Bharti.
Union Textile Minister Shahnawaz Husain swears by the Mahindra Scorpio. “It is a big vehicle. In any case, if I have to suffer the roads in Laloo’s Bihar, the only way I can do it is in a Mahindra vehicle,” he said.
Congress leader Kamal Nath will this time use a Scorpio. “The terrain in the constituency demands a tough vehicle. Also the vehicle is big enough to accommodate several campaigners,” said a source close to him.