During polls, copter shortage hits polticos' heli-hopping

During polls, copter shortage hits  polticos' heli-hopping

Politicians heli-hopping during election campaigning is not new, but the use of choppers this time has come down significantly in Karnataka due to their non-availability.

According to the owner of a Bangalore-based private aviation company, aircraft from Karnataka have been hired by political leaders of other states and hence their services are not available for local leaders.

“Helicopters from Bangalore are preferred since the pilots and services here are better. The charges for hiring a helicopter for 20-30 minutes vary between Rs 1.4 lakh and Rs 1.6 lakh depending on whether it is a single-engine or double-engine aircraft. The hire charges were around Rs 80,000 during the last elections,” he said.

Enquiries with major political parties in the State revealed that only six politicians have used choppers for campaigning since March 26. Those who took the aerial route are Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, KPCC president G Parameshwara, former chief ministers B S Yeddyurappa and Jagadish Shettar and former deputy chief minister K S Eshwarappa.

Also, Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, used a helicopter for electioneering in Karnataka. Yeddyurappa has flown the most and Siddaramaiah the least.

Demand set to go up

Sources in the political parties said the demand for helicopters is likely to go up in the coming days when campaigning picks up pace, particularly during the visit of AICC president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi to the State.

The parties bear the cost of the service, which is shown as election campaign expenditure.

Sources said the cost was not an issue with the political parties and the helicopters hired depended on the seniority of the leaders.

Politicians and parties are not hiring helicopters directly, but through agents, the sources pointed out.

According to an aviation expert from Jakkur aerodrome, all aircraft need an Air Traffic Control clearance, which is shared with Kempegowda International Airport, HAL Airport and Yelahanka and Jakkur aerodromes.

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