Private jets booked up to give Modi campaign edge

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Private jets and helicopters are seen in the skies, fighting for India’s vast and chaotic election.

BJP has booked most of the nation’s available private air fleet as early as three months back, limiting Congress’s mobility, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.20 private jets & 30 helicopters have been booked by BJP while Congress could manage to book just about a fifth of that.

India doesn’t have enough choppers and planes to cater to the surging demand, catalyzed by polls every five years.

Mark Martin, founder of Martin Consulting exclaimed that Indian elections are famous for using almost any means to disrupt opponents campaigns. But this kind of rivalry “has never extended to the sky before.

“The operators look at it as a business on a first-come, first-served basis, they don’t get aligned with any party,” said R.K. Bali, managing director of the Business Aircraft Operators Association, whose members include firms of billionaires Savitri Devi Jindal and Cyrus Poonawalla. “This is the time when charter companies cover their losses.”

Few politicians are covering more ground than Amit Shah. In a single day, he took off from New Delhi to fly to Vijaywada in the morning, hopped over to Dibrugarh in Assam in the afternoon, and flew back to his hometown in Ahmedabad in the evening, a total distance of almost 4,500 miles.

The Congress party had previously attacked PM Modi for not disclosing who funded his 2014 campaign travel and also for using planes owned by businessman and billionaire Gautam Adani. Adani later said that his conglomerate hires out the planes and no one uses them for free.

One significant change this year for aircraft leasing has been almost-zero use of cash payments, the people familiar said. That’s partly thanks to a crackdown by PM Modi on unaccounted payments in the economy, which included abolishing high-denomination banknotes in November 2016.

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