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Helicopters dot Jammu and Kashmir's skyline as campaigning hots up

December 10, 2008 14:04 IST

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It's election period in Jammu and Kashmir [Images] and the political class besides the officialdom all seem to be pressed for time. And this is reflected by the number of choppers which dot the state's skyline. Helicopters have made as many as 350 sorties in less than a month weathering the tough terrain of the border state, officials said.

With leaders of various political parties engaged in a rigorous campaigning, hopping by choppers from one constituency to another is being done with a sole objective to ensuring maximum reach in minimum time, a political leader said.

Choppers are being used by one and all including star campaigners, Election Commission authorities, security forces, polling parties and top government officials.

Political parties including Congress, National Conference, Bharatiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Lok Janshakti Party have all used choppers for electioneering in Poonch, Rajouri, Reasi, Baramulla, Kupwara, Bandipora, Uri, Karnah, Udhampur, Gurez, Lolab, Gool and Gulabgarh areas, as a number of the Assembly segments are tough to reach and the exercise is time consuming.

During campaigning, those who helly-hopped included All India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi [Images], AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi [Images], Minister of State in the PMO Prithvi Raj Chauhan, JK state unit chief and Union Minister Saifuddin Soz and former chief minister Ghulam [Images] Nabi Azad.

"Azad and Soz flew during their campaigning to almost all the areas of J & K undertaking over 120 sorties," Congress sources said.

NC leaders including former Chief Minister and patriarch Farooq Abdullah and party president Omar Abdullah engaged choppers to address rallies in remote areas of Gool, Kargil [Images], Gulabgarh, Nobra Mandi, Bani, Tandhgar, Lolab, Doda, Kishtwar and Bhudhal. The two leaders undertook over 100 sorties, a party leader said.

Besides Congress and NC, Uttar Pradesh [Images] Chief Minister and BSP supremo Mayawati [Images] and Himachal Pradesh [Images] Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dumal used choppers to address rallies in Udhampur, Gool Arnas, Banihal, Ramban, Reasi areas of the state.

Union Minister and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley and former HP chief minister Shanta Kumar were among others to helly-hop in the Valley.

Choppers are also being used by the security forces to post personnel at polling stations in far flung and mountainous areas. They are also being frequently used by the EC officials including the chief election commissioner and his deputies to review security and polling arrangements in the districts.

Besides Governor N N Vohra, some top officials of the state government have also been undertaking chopper sorties.

"Over 350 sorties have been conducted in less than a months. These include choppers belonging to IAF and private operators," state aviation sources said.

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