When the whole country is coping up with corona surging and shortage of vaccine and other medical essential, the leaders campaigning here in West Bengal have already spent Rs 100 crores for polls. West Bengal is also facing acute shortage of Covid-19 vaccines amidst its long eight-phase assembly election.
At least 90 per cent 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. BJP leaders justify the expenses on air travel as ‘unavoidable’ in a fierce election battle like West Bengal.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and a select few in Trinamool Congress have flown around, specially to North Bengal. According to Trinamool MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, “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.”
A 7-seater Eurocopter charges Rs 2 lakh per hour and a senior leader ends up campaigning for five hours, runs up a bill of Rs 10 lakh. The parking and waiting charges and those for post evening charges, a senior leader can end up spending Rs 15 to 20 lakh 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 at least thirty times since March 15.
Statistics gathered from Calcutta, Andal and Bagdogra airports points revealed that total gross spending of Rs 98.73 crore so far on use of helicopters and light aircrafts from Match 15 to April 20.
At least 92 per cent of this spending is by the BJP, 7 per cent by Trinamool Congress and the remaining one per cent by others. Left Front leaders have not used air travel within the state.
Also amidst the ongoing West Bengal assembly elections, cash and other items worth Rs 248.9 crore has been seized till now in the state. This includes Rs 37.72 crore of cash, liquor worth Rs 9.5 crores and drugs worth Rs 114.44 crore, among others.