As early as January this year, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) quietly made the first move to pre-book a private air fleet for campaigning. Though details are discussed only in
hushed tones, reports point to 30 helicopters and 20 private jets, which is the highest number for any Indian political party. In all, there are400 choppers and 500 planes that can be leased from companies such as Pawan Hans, Global Vectra, Air Charter Service, AR Airways and Air One. They don’t come cheap with choppers starting at around 50,000 an hour, while the aircraft costs start at 40,000. Typically, both are booked for 45 days with most of the money coming in advance. The overall spend on air fleet, by all parties, is going upto 3 billion. For the BJP, a party flush with funds, a few days' lease could mean loose change. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that at least half the media spend of 50 billion will be accounted for by the incumbent. For the Congress, there are 10 helicopters and planes in all, with even smaller numbers from those such as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha and the SP-BSP combine in UP. Time is at a premium for all these folks with the national parties easily covering 5,000 km each day. The election is when money rains, they say, on those serving the leaders. Wings to fly above the dust and grime of democracy must command a king's ransom.