West Bengal is reeling under an acute shortage of Covid-19 vaccines amidst a dreary long eight-phase state assembly election, but leaders campaigning here have already spent Rs 100 crores to fly around to pitch for votes.
90 percent of this spending can be traced to BJP because their star campaigners like PM Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah , BJP president J P Nadda and minister Smriti Irani are from outside the state.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and a select few in Trinamool Congress have flown around , specially to North Bengal.
” But this is mainly because Didi is injured and long travels by road impacts on her leg. We don’t have the kind of funds the BJP has mobilised , so we have used helicopters sparingly,” said Trinamool MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar.
BJP leaders justify the expenses on air travel as ‘unavoidable’ in a fierce election battle like West Bengal .
” Tagra larai me goli jyada lagta hai”, ( you need more ammunition in a fierce battle) said a BJP state unit office bearer but on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.
A 7-seater Eurocopter charges Rs 2 lakhs per hour and a senior leader ends up campaigning fir five hours runs up a bill for Rs 10 lakhs . Add the parking and waiting charges and those for post evening charges , a senior leader can end up spending Rs 15 to 20 lakhs for air-hop campaigns.
A twin-engine 20 seater helicopter charges Rs 2.5 lakh per hour . Private Jets costing double that have been also used frequently , atleast thirty times since March 15.
Statistics garnered from Calcutta, Andal and Bagdogra airports points to a total gross spending of Rs 98.73 crores so far on use of helicopters and light aircrafts from Match 15 to April 20.
92 percent of this spending is by BJP , 7 percent by Trinamool Congress and the remaining one percent by others.
Left Front leaders have not used air travel within the state.
” Only our senior leaders have paid for air travel to reach Bengal from outside but none used exclusive facilities. They travelled in flights with common passengers,” said CPI-M spokesperson Debashis Chakrabarty.
Out of power in Bengal for 10 years, the Left is forced to spend carefully.
Analyst Sukhoranjan Dasgupta explains the BJP’s high air bills to ‘lack of star campaigners within the state’ .
” BJP poll strategy this time resembled carpet bombing by top leaders in maximum possible number of meetings. For that, heli-hopping is a must,” he said.
Stakes are high for political parties in West Bengal this time, making it the most expensive elections in the state’s recent memory.
State police and enforcement branch have reported seizure of nearly Rs 250 crores in cash, liquor and other gifts linked to polls ij tge last two.months.
Amid the ongoing West Bengal assembly elections, cash and other items worth ₹248.9 crore has been seized till now in the state, said the additional chief electoral officer Sanjoy Basu.
“Total seizure of cash and items worth ₹248.9 crores has been done till now. This includes ₹37.72 crores of cash, liquor worth ₹9.5 crores and drugs worth ₹114.44 crores, among others,” he said.
Courtesy – IANS