Political parties have often tried to find unique ways of reaching out to public especially during Election Campaigns. Be it the pad yatra(by foot), rath yatra (by chariot) or a helicopter yatra!
Various Political Observers feel that yatras have a unique appeal where the leaders come to the doorstep of people instead of the other way round. The grandeur mustered by a yatra with a focused theme helps to connect better with the target audience. For example, the party patriarch Shri L. K. Advani gave a new lifeline to BJP in the early 1990s on the Ram Mandir issue which helped them to achieve power at the Centre. Even Congress’ longest serving president Sonia Gandhi and her son, the current party president, Rahul Gandhi are regular users of aircraft services.
A lot has changed since the 1990s, with the onset of 2019 the bugle of the election season has sounded. Elections now are not only fought on the ground but as well as in the air. Political parties are now set to hire helicopter for election campaign in abundance for the 2019 election fever.
The top political parties such as the Bharatiya Janta Party have three helicopters of their own, the Congress Party has two of them, the Samajwadi Party, the Janta Dal and Samata Party has one each. But the election season requires these parties to extend their resources to reach out to as many people as possible and for this many parties in advance book a private helicopter for many of their campaigners, who can convey the political standing of their party to the common public.
As per many leaders from different parties, more than a dozen helicopters from private firms will be used for providing aviation services to their star campaigners.
In the 2014 election, a BJP leader agreed to have booked five to six helicopters for the sole purpose of electoral campaigning. The helicopters were used to take the party leaders to different parts of the state. The helicopter service helped each campaigners save a lot of time and enabled them to reach out to the people in faraway places within no time. Similarly, Bihar’s JD(U) also booked three helicopters for the poll campaigning. A RJD leader too agreed to have hired at least two helicopters.
The Process: How Parties Hire Aircraft during Elections
Each Party has at least 3 agents or middlemen who liaise between them and the aviation service provider.
Middlemen and agents are relied upon because the political parties rely on their expert knowledge and their network. These agents give the operators the comfort of receiving genuine and timely payments.
The middlemen and agents take commissions from the political parties of about 5% to 10%.
Before the elections start, the parties give a list of their requirements such as the estimates of the number of rallies and locations they will be visiting to the agents.
The agents approach the operators with the demands of the political parties.
After all the discussion about the needs and the pricing is done, a deal is sealed between the agents of the parties and the aircraft operators.
Reasons why Helicopters and Aircrafts are a Great Choice for Election Campaigns
The main reason why helicopters and aircrafts are a great choice for election campaign is to meet maximum number of voters in a short period of time for different constituencies. Many places in India, especially in the Northeast side are difficult to reach due to poor roadway and railway network, which makes the aircrafts the one and only means of quick transportation. The case of travelling through an aircraft or a helicopter also becomes very strong when the alternative is a highly chaotic airports that are flooded with people and the slow path of roads or trains beyond. If a politician had to visit a place like Jaisalmer in Rajasthan to campaign for votes, he would have to first land in Jaipur by a commercial flight and then reach the destination by road. This would result in wasting 2 to 3 precious days of a packed election itinerary to only one place. In 2014, G. R. Gopinath, the promoter of Deccan Charters stated that, “Even politicians who hit the campaign trail two months ago in copters will be able to cover only about 200 constituencies (out of 543) by the end of elections.”
Arrow Aircraft, a leading choice to hire helicopter for election campaign takes optimum care for aspects like the security, luxury and safety of the VIPs/ VVIPs.
Mostly, political parties’ book helicopters and aircrafts a year in advance but this aviation service provider is always ready to meet urgent needs and requirements of the parties.
Helicopters are generally used for reaching directly to the venues where the public meetings will be held. The helicopters play a big role in attracting large crowd in the rural areas. Parties also book a private helicopter as they are a preferred means of transportation to shuttle between cities.
The major two parties namely, Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and Congress Party have been the most prominent and frequent parties to book helicopters for the purpose of political campaigning, but now even the regional parties like Samajwadi Party and the Janta Dal have engaged in booking of a large number of aircrafts during election time for states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra that have heavy traffic situations.
There are various economical helicopter and aircraft options available whose cost has made them the most preferred means of air-travel. Some helicopters are also available on Lease option where the parties can book helicopters and aircrafts for Maximum Hours of flying within minimum cost. Mostly parties book helicopters on lease basis in advance to avoid any extra peak time charges or situations like lack of availability during the election season.
The aviation services provider offers aircrafts that are fit for the purpose of election campaigns, which help the politicians to reach out to voters across our massive country of about millions of people within a short period of time.