With only a few weeks to go for the elections in the state, the campaigns are getting tense and outrageously expensive. Demand for helicopters and charter flights to ferry leaders to various campaign sites will be the order of the day closer to the elections.
The greater the stature of the leaders the better the flight. It would be apt to borrow the ruling party’s euphemism, ‘double engine government’. Special bookings have been made for expensive double-engine planes and helicopters to drive election campaigns.
Individual entities aren’t allowed to hire personal jets during this period. According to reliable information, the BJP has already booked six helicopters and two charter planes while the Congress has hired two helicopters.
As expected, the aircraft rates are infinitely higher during the election season. The tariff is charged on an hourly basis. On regular days, rent for a helicopter is Rs 95,000, excluding GST. For a charter plane, the fare is Rs 1.15 lakhs. During elections, it becomes Rs 2.50 lakhs for helicopters and Rs 3 to 4 lakhs for charter planes.
Leaders who wield clout use double-engine charter planes whose fares range anywhere between Rs 4 and 5 lakhs. For double-engine helicopters, the rent is Rs 2.50 lakh.
As a rule, a flying time of three hours and more will be charged each day.
Naturally, the airport ecosystem becomes the biggest beneficiary. Each time a flight takes off and lands, airports experience a huge revenue jump. The landing charges for private planes are around Rs 50,000. It’s on the lower side for helicopters, Rs 30,000/-. The charges are applicable as many times as the private jets use the runways.
The general justification is that leaders prefer aircraft during elections since rural areas don’t have well-connected roads and are distant from airports. Given that there is so much riding on every meeting, leaders use aircraft to make every minute count.
Three years ago, it was reported that the BJP and the Congress spent a whopping Rs 500 crores on hiring aircraft since 2014. That the taxpayer will eventually bear the brunt of these expenses is another story.