Compared to three choppers at Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh’s service in 2012 Assembly elections, the AICC provided only one helicopter this time. Sources said owing to the cash crunch faced by the party, the Punjab Congress was provided with only one chopper this time. Demonetisation was another reason for the party mulling cutting use of choppers in state elections.
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This time, the Punjab Congress is missing its former Dhuri legislator Arvind Khanna, who had provided Amarinder a chopper 24X7 last time. Khanna has resigned from Punjab Assembly and quit politics.
Amarinder, for the first time this year, used the chopper sent by the AICC on Friday to fly from Chandigarh to Raikot, where he accompanied Dr Amar Singh, the party candidate from Raikot, while filing his nomination papers.
Sources in the Congress said while the chopper would mostly be used by Amarinder, there could be a scramble for the flying machine. Party’s star campaigners use choppers to save time while criss-crossing the state to campaign for several candidates in a day.
“We have asked our leaders from across the state to inform us about their plan to use a chopper. We are receiving the requests. This chopper will mostly be used by Amarinder. If we need more, we will send a request to AICC,” said a Congress leader.
Another party leader said he would need a chopper. “I am going to put a request. Let us see,” he said.
Sources said if cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu joins the Congress, he would be a star campaigner. “He too will certainly need a chopper as we would like him to fly to various places,’’ said an AICC leader.
During the 2012 Assembly elections, a private fixed-wheel helicopter owned by Khanna was virtually with Amarinder ahead of the polls. Amarinder was recorded to be the most frequent flier during canvassing, following by Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Amarinder’s closeness to Khanna was a bone of contention among the Congress leaders, as the latter was always seen on the pilot’s seat with the former. This had created a disconnect between Amarinder and several leaders of the party.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when the party had fielded all big-wigs to contest, most of the star campaigners including Amarinder were pinned in their constituencies and hence, there were not many takers for the chopper.