As political bigwigs descend on city, demand for choppers soars

Election dept inundated with requests, 40 permissions granted so far; more to follow with just four days left for campaigning

Written by Nisha Nambiar | Pune | Published: October 13, 2014 10:42:12 am

The Assembly elections, where five major parties will be slugging it out independently, have so far witnessed that there is much fanfare with leaders switching to chopper services to be ferried from one area to another in the state. With leaders of all political parties conducting rallies and campaigns in at least three places in the area, the district election department is inundated with requests for chopper services for the campaigns. With just four days left for campaigning, 40 requests have been cleared for various parties since September 27 for Pune district.

While the Lok Sabha elections for the four parliamentary constituencies – Pune, Baramati, Shirur and Maval – saw about 61 requests for chopper services, the district election officials said the requests were bound to cross the number in the next four days.

“Earlier, state leaders from Mumbai preferred to travel to the city by road, but with the election dates being announced late and limited campaign time, the requests are pouring in,’’ said the officials. The home department received requests for chopper services for election from September 26, a day before the last day to file nominations.

“Apart from the sabhas of the Prime Minister in the district on October 9, chopper services have been used for Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Narayan Rane and Vishwajit Kadam, former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, MP Supriya Sule, BJP leaders Amit Shah, Vinod Tawade and Vasundhra Raje Scindia, and Sena leaders Uddhav Thackeray and Aditya Thackeray,’’ said the officials. The services have been used mostly by Sena and BJP leaders.

To avail of the services, letters of consent have to be sought from the Public Works Department and the superintendent of police (rural), apart from  informing the authorities concerned about the latitude and longitude for the landing. “The applications have to be given to us by the political parties. The SP’s letter is the final clearance,’’ the officials added.

Ahead of the elections, chopper service pilots raised the issue that politicians should be educated about air travel rules to avoid flying tempers and incidents of forced landings. In the Lok Sabha elections, political activists in Beed allegedly assaulted a helicopter pilot after a flight was delayed because of a delay in permissions issued by the local administration.

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