The Election Commission has fixed the rates that vary from Rs 80,000 to Rs 2.50 lakh per hour, depending on the seating capacity of the helicopters, for inclusion in the poll expenditure of the candidates

NEW DELHI : The candidates will think twice before inviting the party leaders hopping around on helicopters to campaign for them in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The helicopter cost will be included in the poll expenditure allowed to the candidates even if the choppers have been hired by their political parties.

Even though the poll expenditure ceiling has been revised from Rs 25 lakh in the last Lok Sabha elections to Rs 70 lakh in the most states and Rs 54 lakh in small state of Goa and the union territories, except Delhi where it is Rs 70 lakh, it will pinch the candidates of the top campaigners address two, three meetings in their constituencies.

The Election Commission has fixed the rates that vary from Rs 80,000 to Rs 2.50 lakh per hour, depending on the seating capacity of the helicopters, for inclusion in the poll expenditure of the candidates. The rates were worked out by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on the request of the commission.

Sources in the Election Commission said the rates have been already communicated to the chief electoral officers (CEOs) of all states and union territories, asking them to calculate the expenditure on helicopter on the hourly basis and add 12.36 per cent to it as the mandatory service tax.

The Commission decided to fix the helicopter charges itself after noting that the political parties used to quote different rates while using the chopper during the elections. Captain Irshad Ahmed, the operations inspector with DGCA, recommended the rates after consulting the firms that hire the helicopters.

Rates of the chartered aircraft have been also worked out, but their cost will be divided among the candidates since the leaders using such aircraft cover more than one constituency after landing at an airstrip or airport.

The 11-seater Dauphin chopper, often used by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, as also the latest BGell 412 are the costliest at Rs 2.50 lakh per hour while the old model Bell 206L4 is the cheapest at Rs 80,000 per hour. Rates of the single engine Bell 407 vary from Rs 85,000 to Rs 90,000 while the most sought after is the twin-engine Eurocopter 135, the most sought chopper as the safest that will not have any mishap even if one engine pops off. Its rate is Rs 1.30 lakh per hour.

Some other helicopters available with the hiring companies and industrialists, who oblige the selected political leaders to use their facility, are Agusta 139 Rs 1.50 to 1.80 lakh per hour, Bell 429 Rs 1.60 lakh per hour.

The strategic advantage of the choppers is that they can land anywhere while the chartered aircraft need an aircraft with minimum length of 1800 metres for landing and takeoff.

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