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Election choppers cutting into poll expense

By Ron Duarah
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GUWAHATI, April 6 � Noticed the dozen odd choppers flying around the State, carrying political leaders to election rallies? At many of the places, people flock to the meeting venues just for a close look at the chopper than for anything else. �Aami helicopter chaaboloihe ahisu (We have come to see the chopper),� said Maitreyee Das of Hajo attending an election rally by LK Advani at Kamalpur this afternoon.

While not all of the ten thousand people at the Kamalpur meeting venue, 35 kms from here, may have come to see the chopper alone but also to hear Advani and the others, it is a fact that in the hundreds of venues that had election rallies with VIPs riding choppers, grassroot party workers are beginning to complain.

Another moot point these party workers are pointing out is that most of the chopper-riding VIP politicians know very little about Assam and its issues and thus their election speeches have not been able to sway voter sentiments.

These workers mostly belong to the Congress and the BJP. Both the parties have hired choppers in a big way for election campaigns. The spin-off is that the election candidates are not getting sufficient party funds to carry forward their grassroot level campaigns to the extent they would have loved to.

Insiders in both the Congress and the BJP are claiming that their candidates are receiving lesser funds this year for ground level work. Both these national parties are giving candidates Rs 6 to 8 lakh on an average, leaving the candidates to fend for themselves. While the better known candidates have the resources and wherewithal to arrange the remainder amounts, there are many who have complained bitterly of fund crunch. Of course, this could well be a ploy to mislead nosey reporters, as the grapevine has it that many of the candidates are believed to have spent ten times the amount authorised by the Election Commission, from getting the party ticket to carrying out the campaign till voting takes place.

In the case of Assam this year, the Election Commission has stipulated a poll campaign expenditure ceiling of Rs 16 lakh per candidate per constituency.

Congress leaders like Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, party chief Sonia Gandhi do seem to have some knowledge of the issues that relate to Assam. Unfortunately, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit, who was in the State on Tuesday, displayed a sheer lack of knowledge vis-a-vis Assam. One does not know how many undecided voter has shifted to the Congress after hearing her uninspiring speech.

In the BJP camp too, certain leaders who have been flying around the State for poll canvassing this year, proved over and over again that they know nothing about the State, and are just parrotting hurried briefings on board the choppers. These leaders include Shatrughan Sinha, Hema Malini and others. Apart from contributing to the �glamour quotient� the presence of these leaders helps very little to secure some additional votes for the BJP, commented a BJP office bearer, who requested anonymity.

This brings the political strategists in Assam to one conclusion: whether to fly in VIPs or spend the money thus saved on grassroot level activity, which may end up to be a more prudent expenditure. And yes, the more important point: This money, that is being freely spent, does this not belong to the people at the end of the day? Would the people of the State continue to have to look towards the sky for their welfare and development, or would they get to see the leaders at horizontal level, courteous for a change and pleading, not demanding votes?

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Election choppers cutting into poll expense

GUWAHATI, April 6 � Noticed the dozen odd choppers flying around the State, carrying political leaders to election rallies? At many of the places, people flock to the meeting venues just for a close look at the chopper than for anything else. �Aami helicopter chaaboloihe ahisu (We have come to see the chopper),� said Maitreyee Das of Hajo attending an election rally by LK Advani at Kamalpur this afternoon.

While not all of the ten thousand people at the Kamalpur meeting venue, 35 kms from here, may have come to see the chopper alone but also to hear Advani and the others, it is a fact that in the hundreds of venues that had election rallies with VIPs riding choppers, grassroot party workers are beginning to complain.

Another moot point these party workers are pointing out is that most of the chopper-riding VIP politicians know very little about Assam and its issues and thus their election speeches have not been able to sway voter sentiments.

These workers mostly belong to the Congress and the BJP. Both the parties have hired choppers in a big way for election campaigns. The spin-off is that the election candidates are not getting sufficient party funds to carry forward their grassroot level campaigns to the extent they would have loved to.

Insiders in both the Congress and the BJP are claiming that their candidates are receiving lesser funds this year for ground level work. Both these national parties are giving candidates Rs 6 to 8 lakh on an average, leaving the candidates to fend for themselves. While the better known candidates have the resources and wherewithal to arrange the remainder amounts, there are many who have complained bitterly of fund crunch. Of course, this could well be a ploy to mislead nosey reporters, as the grapevine has it that many of the candidates are believed to have spent ten times the amount authorised by the Election Commission, from getting the party ticket to carrying out the campaign till voting takes place.

In the case of Assam this year, the Election Commission has stipulated a poll campaign expenditure ceiling of Rs 16 lakh per candidate per constituency.

Congress leaders like Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, party chief Sonia Gandhi do seem to have some knowledge of the issues that relate to Assam. Unfortunately, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit, who was in the State on Tuesday, displayed a sheer lack of knowledge vis-a-vis Assam. One does not know how many undecided voter has shifted to the Congress after hearing her uninspiring speech.

In the BJP camp too, certain leaders who have been flying around the State for poll canvassing this year, proved over and over again that they know nothing about the State, and are just parrotting hurried briefings on board the choppers. These leaders include Shatrughan Sinha, Hema Malini and others. Apart from contributing to the �glamour quotient� the presence of these leaders helps very little to secure some additional votes for the BJP, commented a BJP office bearer, who requested anonymity.

This brings the political strategists in Assam to one conclusion: whether to fly in VIPs or spend the money thus saved on grassroot level activity, which may end up to be a more prudent expenditure. And yes, the more important point: This money, that is being freely spent, does this not belong to the people at the end of the day? Would the people of the State continue to have to look towards the sky for their welfare and development, or would they get to see the leaders at horizontal level, courteous for a change and pleading, not demanding votes?

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