ARCHIVE UP IN THE AIR (PART 1): COBRAPOST EXPOSÉ ON POLITICIANS USING CHARTERS

UP IN THE AIR (PART 1): COBRAPOST EXPOSÉ ON POLITICIANS USING CHARTERS

UP IN THE AIR (PART 1): COBRAPOST EXPOSÉ ON POLITICIANS USING CHARTERS


By Cobrapost.com - December 18, 2014


A Cobrapost investigation reveals how politicians have been using chartered aircraft, with some of them flouting Election Commission norms. One even flew in an aircraft not registered with the DGCA. Some of them have been flying with family members, government officials and corporate barons, sometimes doing several aerial trips in a single day. In some cases, the Airports Authority of India did not disclose the destinations they flew to. Cobrapost also discovered that most of the air charter companies are running into losses worth crores of rupees.
Indian politicians don’t confine themselves to addressing rallies in kurta-pyjamas, traversing the country in the heat and dust, accusing each other of anything they can, slinging it out in parliament and the state assembly, making promises they rarely keep. All this apart, there is another mile high side to them that Cobrapost discovered when it sought information from dozens of airports under the Airports Authority of India (AAI) through various Right to Information (RTI) as well as other sources regarding the movement of politicians in private jets.
Prominent among the ‘flying politicians’ are Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh, senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani, former cabinet minister and NCP president Sharad Pawar, the then leader of Opposition, the present foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and former finance minister and now President of India Pranab Mukherjee. Others include senior politicians from the (BJP), the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Biju Janta Dal (BJD), former and sitting chief ministers, parliamentarians, MLAs and general secretaries and other senior party cadres.
The list grows longer and longer.
Other politicians who flew in private charters include then the BJP president Nitin Gadkari, the NCP’s Praful Patel (who has been the civil aviation minister), Congress leader Veerappa Moily (former chief minister of Karnataka, former minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Minister of Corporate Affairs and Minister of Power), Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chhattisgargh Chief Minister Raman Singh (BJP), Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal, former Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna (Congress), BSP chief and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati, ex-chief minister of Andhra Pradesh Kiran Kumar Reddy, former chief minister of Karnataka and currently national vice-president of the BJP B.S. Yeddyurappa, erstwhile chief minister of Karanataka and currently leader of the state opposition Jagdish Shettar (BJP), the current Minister of Law and Justice and former chief minister of Karanataka Sadanand Gowda, Congress Lok Sabha member and former Union Minister of State for the Ministry of Power Jyotiraditya Scindia and former minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Mukul Wasnik of the Congress, among others.
Elections to the Lok Sabha and for the Andhra Pradesh assembly were held from April 7 to May 12, 2014.
Before the elections, all political parties are required to notify the Election Commission (EC) about their their star campaigners. After the polls when political parties have to submit their expense accounts to the EC, they also have to provide detailed travel expenses of their star campaigners and whether they travelled by chartered flights or by any other means.
In its letter dated January 23, 2013, to the presidents and general secretaries of all political parties, the EC said: “I am directed to inform that as per the directions of the Ho’ble Supreme Court as in the case of common cause v/s Union of India and Oth. (others) (MR 1996 SC 081) the Election Commission has prescribed a pro forma vide its letters dated 27.12.2001, 22.03.2004 and 13.01.2009 in which the political parties are required to submit, for the Commission’s scrutiny, the statement of the election expenditures relating to each Lok Sabha/state legislative assembly.” It adds: “The requisite information is sought to enable scrutiny of the expenditure incurred or authorized by the parties or the candidates set up by them vis-à-vis exemptions claimed by them in terms of explanation (1) to Section 77(1) of the Representation of the People Act 1951 in their returns of election expenses filed under Section 78 of the said Act.”
According to documents with Cobrapost availed from the EC, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and president of the Telugu Desam Party N. Chandrababu Naidu, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Mayawati and general secretary of the Trinamool Congress Mukul Roy have not revealed their complete travel expenses during campaigning to the EC in a clear violation of election rules laid down by the commission.
Mukul Roy was a star campaigner in West Bengal, Tripura and Jharkhand for the Trinamool Congress (TMC) for the Lok Sabha elections. In its expenditure account to the EC, the TMC has declared that Mukul Roy travelled in a chartered aircraft for which the TMC paid Rs. 2 crore. However, Roy also used the services of Northeast Shuttles Pvt Ltd on March 3, 2014, to fly from Ranchi to Kolkata, according to documents available with Cobrapost, a fact that Roy withheld from the EC.
Rajya Sabha member and former railway minister Mukul Roy was a star campaigner in West Bengal, Tripura and Jharkhand for the Trinamool Congress (TMC) for the Lok Sabha elections. In its expenditure account to the EC, the TMC has declared that Mukul Roy travelled in a chartered aircraft for which the TMC paid Rs. 2 crore. However, Roy also used the services of Northeast Shuttles Pvt Ltd on March 3, 2014, to fly from Ranchi to Kolkata, according to documents available with Cobrapost, a fact that he withheld from the EC. On the flight Roy was with former director general of police Rajat Majumdar. Majumdar was arrested by the CBI in September 2014 for his alleged involvement in the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam in West Bengal.
The TDP had declared Naidu to be its star campaigner for the elections and disclosed in its expenditure to the EC that it paid Rs. 1,03,37,120 to Turbo Aviation Pvt Ltd for hiring its aircraft during campaigning. However, another aircraft charter company, Aryan Aviation Pvt Ltd, has submitted to the AAI that Naidu used its charter aircraft six times on May 5, 2014. These six trips would have cost the TDP around Rs. 6 lakh, inclusive of all charges.
Two other charter companies have informed the AAI that Naidu used their aircraft. Krishnapatnam Port Co Ltd has said that Naidu used its aircraft with the call sign VT-NAV three times on April 21, 2014. Strangely, Navayuga Engineering Pvt Ltd has also said that Naidu flew in its aircraft – with the same call sign VT-NAV – on April 21 and 22, 2014.
According to DGCA documents available with Cobrapost, VT-NAV is not registered with them in its list of non-scheduled operators permit holder. This implies that VT-NAV is operating without a DGCA permit and raises the alarming question that how has AAI allowed it to fly? This also poses a serious security risk.
Documents from the AAI with Cobrapost reveal that on June 29, 2014, Naidu flew from Tirupati to Sriharikota in a GMR Aviation aircraft after he became chief minister on June 8, 2014. On September 12, 2014, Naidu went to Hyderabad from Tirupati.
The GMR Group is a public private partnership infrastructure company floated by Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao with businesses in seven countries, active in energy, highways, large urban development and airports sectors.
While campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections, Naidu went to Hyderabad from Tirupati in a chartered aircraft of the Turbo Aviation Pvt Ltd on June 5, 2014. On May 19, 2014, Naidu took a Turbo Aviation Pvt Ltd chartered aircraft from Tirupati to Hyderabad and on April 21, 2014, from Tirupati to S.R. Puram and on to Aragonda and onwards to Chandragiri. On April 22, 2014, Naidu again flew from Tirupati to Hyderabad and took the same flight plan on April 29, 2014, both in Turbo Aviation Pvt Ltd aircraft. On April 7, 2014, Naidu again went to Hyderabad from Tirupati in a Turbo Aviation jet, and again on July 19, 2014.
The BSP had informed the EC that it had hired only Aerotech Aviation India Pvt Ltd and paid Rs. 173,121,479 to it to ferry its star campaigners Mayawati, S.C. Mishra and Raja Ram. However, according to AAI documents with Cobrapost, on March 22, 2014, Mayawati and Mishra flew from Jaipur to Lucknow in an aircraft belonging to EIH Ltd, owned by the Oberoi Group. This again is a violation of the guidelines laid down by the EC.
BSP supremo and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Mayawati also earned her frequent flier miles in chartered aircraft. On March 22, 2014, Mayawati travelled from Jaipur to Lucknow with Rajya Sabha member S.C. Mishra and two others in an EIH Ltd chartered aircraft.
They flew the 509 km in a nine-seater Hawker 850 XP jet, which is chartered at Rs. 2.25 lakh per hour, excluding crew and landing and ground handling charges. This flight would have cost Mayawati around Rs. 3.5 lakh. If they had flown economy class with a commercial airline, it would have cost a total Rs. 24,000 only for all four people.
On November 15, 24 and 25, 2013, Mayawati used chartered helicopters and aircraft to fly from Raipur to Jangir, from Jaipur to Jhunjhunu and from Jaipur to Dhaulpur respectively. Mayawati flew in aircraft belonging to Global Vectra, Saxsons Air Services and Orbit Aviation. On April 4, 2011, Mayawati flew from Thiruvananthapuram to Kozikhode on a chartered flight belonging to the Jaypee Group with IAS officer Navneet Sehgal. On April 9, 2011, while Mayawati was the chief minister, she had flown from Jaipur to Lucknow in a chartered aircraft.
In another instance, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) president Babulal Marandi was the star campaigner for his party. In its expenditure disclosure to the EC, the JVM has stated that it paid Rs. 2,10,75,469 to itself instead of to any air charter company for Marandi renting a “helicopter”, an “air taxi” and for his “air travel” from March 5, 2014 to March 26, 2013. This implies that the JVM has not disclosed which charter company they paid and also raises the question that how did the EC accept this expense account, which is in violation of the EC’s directive.
NCP leader and aviation minister from 2004 to 2011 Praful Patel and his family used chartered aircraft. On January 29, 2014, his son Prajay Patel and daughters Poorna Patel and Niyati Patel flew from Ahmedabad to Mumbai via Vadodara in a KAPL private jet. KAPL belongs to the Adani Group that has business interests in coal, mining, power and others. A September 2014 Supreme Court decision to cancel 214 coal mines made the Adani Group lose access to over three billion tonnes of coal reserves with a production capacity of 110 MTPA and investments of nearly Rs. 6,000 crore spent in developing these coal mines.
On February 13, 2014, Praful Patel flew from Vadodara to Gondiya with NCP leader and former minister of state in the Ministry of Mines (Independent Charge) Dinsha Patel, in an Air One Aviation Pvt Ltd chartered jet. At that time, Patel was the minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises (January 2011 to May 2014). Then on March 9, Patel went to Gondia in Maharashtra from Jaipur with his chartered accountant Namrata in an Indo-Pacific Aviation Ltd jet.
Then on December 14, 2012, Praful Patel travelled to Ahmedabad from Vadodara in a King Rotor and Air Pvt Ltd aircraft. Patel took a chartered flight on October 10, 2012, to fly from Vadodara to Mumbai with NCP leader and Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule and other ministers in Maharashtra government, including Chhagan Bhujbal, Sunil Tatkare, Baban Rao Pachpute. Other prominent NCP leaders who accompanied him included Madhukar Pichad, Vinayak Mete, Hemant Takle and Jitendra Ahwad.
Praful Patel availed the services of Pinnacle Air Services on September 7, 2012, for his travel from Vadodara to Mumbai, and on February 4, 2013, from Vadodara to Mumbai on an Indian Steel Work Pvt. Ltd. flight. On May 12, 2013, Praful Patel took a GVK Aviation flight (now GVK Project and Technical Services Ltd) from Vadodara to Gondia with his wife Varsha Patel. On September 7, 2013, Praful Patel flew to Gondia from Vadodara in an aircraft belonging to the Adani Group.
When Cobrapost e-mailed GVK Project and Technical Services Ltd seeking details of how and how much they paid for the air charters, the company’s profit/losses, the company’s corporate communication head wrote back without providing any details and simply said: “We give our aircraft at rates prevailing in the charter industry, and every movement is billed.”
On November 6, 2011, Praful Patel and the director of Larsen & Toubro S.N. Roy flew in a company aircraft from Vadodara to Mumbai. On May 15, 2010, Praful Patel travelled from Mangalore to Mumbai with the then road transport minister Oscar Fernandez in a chartered aircraft belonging to the GMR Group.
Another interesting aspect came to the fore during the Cobrapost investigation. On January 26, 2014, then Congress MLA from Gandhi Nagar, Delhi, and president of the Congress’ Delhi unit Arvinder Singh Lovely took a chartered flight from Jaipur to Delhi. Strangely, Arvinder Singh was with BJP leader Sudhanshu Mittal and then Congress MLA Haroon Yusuf, less than a month before Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal stepped down as Delhi’s chief minister on February 14, 2014.
Veerappa Moily, Congress leader and a senior minister in the earlier Congress-led government, travelled in a GMR Group aircraft from Mangalore to Delhi with his wife on September 9, 2012. Moily was the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Minister of Corporate Affairs and Minister of Power in 2012.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of the BJP too availed chartered flights of corporate houses. On March 7, 2014, Chouhan flew with six others from Jaipur to Bhopal in a Ligare Aviation Airking B-200 eight-seater jet. The cost of this 439 km flight would have been approximately Rs. 4 lakh.
On May 1, 2013, Chouhan flew to Bangalore from Bhopal on a Business Jet India flight. Chouhan and his wife Sadhna went to Bhopal from Dehradun on June 19, 2013, on an SRC Aviation flight. On June 23,2013, the chief minister travelled from Bhopal to Banda on a chartered flight belonging to the Jaypee Group and on September 22, 2013, Chouhan used an Orbit Aviation for his aerial movement to Umaria from Bhopal. (Orbit Aviation belongs to the Shiromani Akali Dal’s Bikram Singh Majithia, a minister in Punjab.) The next day, Chouhan flew from Bhopal to Delhi.
If this was not enough, Chouhan also used the Madhya Pradesh Government flights for personal use. On December 31, 2011, Chouhan flew with his wife and sons Kartik and Kunal from Mangalore to Ojar in Maharashtra. On December 13, 2013, he went to Bhopal from Jaipur in a state government aircraft. On December 29, 2011, he went from Mangalore to Agati in Lakshadweep again in a state government plane.
Chief minister of Chhattisgarh since 2003, Raman Singh availed aircraft of the Dainik Bhaskar Group at least three times for personal use. On June 6, 2013, Raman Singh flew from Raipur to Tirupati; the next day from Tirupati to Goa and on August 12, 2013, from Raipur to Hyderabad with his wife Veena Singh, son Abhishek Singh and daughter-in-law Aishwarya. Apart from this, Raman Singh used the official aircraft of the state government on May 5, 2013, to fly from state capital Raipur to Jagdalpur with his family.
Raman Singh also flew in Dainik Bhaskar Group’s aircraft on December 29, 2013, from Raipur to Indore with his wife, son and daughter-in-law. He used the media group’s aircraft once more: on February 16, 2013, from Raipur to Chandigarh. Raman Singh flew four more times in chartered aircraft, according to documents with Cobrapost.
When Cobrapost contacted Abhishek Singh via e-mail with a set of questions regarding his use of chartered aircraft, he replied that on August 12, 2013, he and his “wife Aishwarya Singh accompanied my father Dr. Raman Singh, chief minister, Chhattisgarh, from Raipur to Hyderabad. On the relevant date, I was not a Member of Parliament.” About the payment, Abhishekh Singh wrote back stating that “the payment of flight was made by Government of Chhattisgarh” and that he does not “have information about” the mode of payment and that the “payment of the flight was made by Government of Chhattisgarh”.
Biju Janata Dal MP Pinaki Misra travelled with the managing director of Triveni Earthmovers B. Prabhakaran from Ranchi to Delhi on January 11, 2013, in an SRC Aviation chartered aircraft. Prabhakaran is known to be the “mining king” of Odisha, though officially he does not own a single mine and claims to be just a contractor. The Shah Commission appointed by the Supreme Court in 2010 to probe illegal mining in Odisha indicted Prabhakaran and recommended a CBI inquiry.
When Cobrapost contacted Mishra via e-mail with a set of questions regarding his use of chartered aircraft, he replied: “You may be aware that I am a senior advocate by profession. I appear in high courts all over India and it is the client’s responsibility to pay for my passage and boarding and lodging apart from my professional fees.
“This is the standard practice in the legal profession and all advocates routinely use private/chartered flights paid for by clients when no convenient commercial flight is available.
“I was in Ranchi high court for a case in which Triveni Earthmovers had an interest and therefore I used their aircraft to return to Delhi. After court hours there is an Indigo flight which returns to Delhi via Patna which takes more than 3&1/2 hours and a late flight of GO Air which reaches Delhi after 10pm. Therefore I chose to come back to Delhi after finishing my case in Ranchi at the earliest, by their company aircraft since I had pressing engagements in Delhi early evening.
“This is not the first time I have used a company’s aircraft in discharge of my responsibility as a senior advocate and it certainly won’t be the last. This has nothing to do with my being a member of parliament but is purely concerned with my professional career to which no objection can be raised. As you may be aware I am elected from Odisha so I can have no reason to visit Ranchi on political work.”
Mishra added that MPs “routinely used and continue to use private/company/chartered aircrafts in discharge of their professional duties which is regarded as unexceptionable in legal circles”.
While he was the minority affairs minister, Congress leader Salman Khursheed flew from Mumbai to Thiruvananthapuram and from Thiruvananthapuram to Rajmundri on March 22, 2010, on an International Air Charter Operations Pvt. Ltd. flight.
When Cobrapost contacted Khursheed via e-mail with a set of questions regarding his use of chartered aircraft, he replied: “Since you have details that I no longer have I am unable to help you further. Sometimes people who have a programme and there is no way to get a guest there in time travel arrangements are made. You can find out from the charter who booked and on what terms. I certainly did neither. I appreciate your having taken the trouble to ask. Incidentally Rajamundri is no destination but just a refuelling halt. By the way some friends have their own aircraft and do oblige even now.”
On January 7, 2014, former Union Minister for Corporate Affairs Sachin Pilot used a chartered flight of the GMR Group to fly from Tirupati to Delhi with his entire family in a Hawker 750 nine-seater jet. The 1,247 km would have cost the Pilot family approximately Rs. 6 lakh.
Then on April 5, 2014, Pilot flew from Jaipur to Gogra in Rajasthan in a Ligare Aviation aircraft. A year earlier in 2013, Pilot had used the same charter company to go to Ghoongra (Ajmer) from Jaipur on November 29. On November 27, 2013, Pilot flew from Jaipur to Delhi in an Orbit Aviation chartered aircraft. A day earlier, he had flown from Jaipur to Avra in Rajasthan in an India Flysafe plane and on November 5, 2013, from Jaipur to Nagaur via Aerotech Aviation India Pvt Ltd.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, son of late Bal Thackeray, flew from Dehradun to Mumbai in a chartered aircraft of Blue Sky Leasing on December 23, 2013. He was with his wife Rashmi and sons Aditya (chief of the youth wing of the Shiv Sena) and Tejas.
On December 13, 2013, Uddhav and Aditya flew from Jaipur to Mumbai with four others in an aircraft owned by BG Shirke Construction Pvt Ltd, a construction group based in Pune. A day earlier, Uddhav and Aditya flew to Mumbai from Raipur in a chartered aircraft of Business Jet.
When BJP leader and former Jharkhand chief minister Arjun Munda flew from state capital Ranchi to Chaibasa (in Jharkhand) on March 25, 2014, with then deputy chief minister Raghubar Das and then state BJP party in-charge Vinod Pandey, he took a Summit Aviation charter plane. On March 31, 2014, Munda and Das went from Ranchi to Godda (in Jharkhand) again in a Summit Aviation aircraft. Arjun Munda was chief minister from 2003 to 2005 and again from September 2010 t0 December 2013.
In 2013 on December 12, Munda had taken a chartered aircraft of Dove Airlines Pvt Ltd to go to Raipur from Ranchi. When he went from Ranchi to Jamshedpur and back with then state BJP president Dineshanad Goswami on February 5, 2012 and February 24, Munda took an Aryan Aviation chartered aircraft.
Munda’s wife Meera flew on an Aryan Aviation flight again on February 25, 2012, from Ranchi to Jamshedpur. This time, according to the documents available, the state government paid for the chartered flight in a clear violation that a chief minister’s wife is not entitled to use chartered aircraft and that her air tickets have to be paid by her husband. Munda and his wife took a chartered flight again on March 13, 2012, from Ranchi to Chandigarh. Munda and deputy chief minister Hemant Soren took a Span Air chartered flight from Ranchi to Mumbai on March 18, 2012. Apart from this, Munda used several other chartered flights on November 24, 2012, from Ranchi to Surat; Ranchi to Vadodara on December 2, 2012 (both via Dove Airlines when he was not the chief minister) and Ranchi to Jamshedpur on January 19, 2013, in a Tata Steel aircraft.
Venkaiah Naidu, now the union urban development minister, went to Hyderabad from Tirupati on a Turbo Aviation chartered flight on April 23, 2014, and from Tirupati to Madanpalli on April 29 in a Pawan Hans helicopter. From Ranchi, Naidu went to Delhi in an SRC Aviation in a Hawker 800XP eight-seater jet on March 24, 2014. The air distance from Ranchi to Delhi being 1,003 km and the charge for a Hawker 800XP being Rs. 2.25 lakh per hour (excluding other charges), this would have cost Naidu approximately Rs. 4 lakh.
On May 31, 2014, he flew from Tirupati to Hyderabad in a GMR Group chartered aircraft with his wife Usha, daughter Deepa and four others. He used aircraft of Turbo Aviation and GMR Aviation three more times in 2014.
On November 8, 2013, flew from Raipur to Sukma in an Orbit Aviation charter plane. On November 12, 2013, he flew from Raipur to Bilaspur in a chartered aircraft.
Chief minister of Uttarakhand from 2012 to 2014 and Congress leader Vijay Bahuguna also used corporate houses’ charter flights. On January 23, 2014, he flew from Uttarakhand’s capital Dehradun to Delhi with his son Saket Bahuguna, Saket’s wife Gauri, former minister of state for Parliamentary Affairs and Planning and former chairman of Indian Premier League (IPL) Rajeev Shukla. (Shukla resigned over alleged corruption and spot-fixing in the IPL in 2013).
Two days later, Vijay Bahuguna, Saket and Gauri flew from Dehradun to GTC helipad (in Uttarakhand) in a UT Air India Pvt Ltd charter aircraft. Then on January 28, 2014, Vijay Bahuguna and Saket flew to Delhi from Dehradun in an Air Charter services aircraft. Vijay Bahuguna and Yashpal Arya (minister of revenue, land management, disaster management and rehabilitation and irrigation) and two others flew from Dehradun to GTC Helipad on June 14, 2013, in an Escorts Ltd aircraft. The Escort Group is among India’s leading conglomerates operating in the high growth sector of agricultural machinery, construction and material handling equipment.
In June 2013, a multi-day cloudburst in Uttarakhand caused devastating floods and landslides in the country’s worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami.
On December 4, 2013, Vijay Bahuguna, Saket, Gauri and Rajeev Shukla went to Delhi from Dehradun in a Span Air aircraft. On October 3, 2013, the chief minister, his wife Sudha Bahuguna and Rajeev Shukla took a Ligare Aviation charter flight to Delhi from Dehradun.
On September 15, 18, and October 3, 2013, Vijay Bahuguna travelled in Ligare Aviation flights from Dehradun to Delhi. With him was Congress leader Rajeev Shukla on the October 3 flight. Again on September 27, 2013, Vijay Bahuguna took an Air Charter Services Pvt Ltd flight from Dehradun to Delhi, while on October 5 the same year he and his son Saket flew to Sahastradhara in Uttarakhand from Dehradum in a Prabhatam Aviation chartered aircraft. Then on December 22, 2013, the chief minister’s wife Sudha flew to Delhi from Dehradun with their son Saurav, again in an Air Charter Services aircraft.
A Dehradun to Delhi chartered flight costs approximately Rs. 2.50 lakh while a single seat in a commercial flight costs just Rs. 5,000 (one way).
According to documents with Cobrapost, Vijay Bahuguna flew five more times in chartered aircraft.
In a peculiar twist, documents with Cobrapost availed from the Registrar of Companies of some charter companies who filed their balance sheets reveal that they have been running into losses worth crores of rupees. Bajaj Aviation Pvt Ltd, which belongs to the Bajaj Group, has showed losses of Rs. 153.21 lakh for the financial year 2010-11, Rs. 154.04 in FY 2011-12 and Rs. 638.23 lakh in FY 2012-13. The company’s accumulated loss stands at Rs. 8.04 crore in FY 2012-13.
GMR Aviation Pvt Ltd, favoured by most politicians, has suffered a loss of Rs. 23.34 crore in 2012-13 and Rs. 6.06 crore in 2013-14. GMR has an outstanding loan of Rs. 304.99 crore in FY 2013-14. Karnavati Aviation Pvt Ltd (KAPL) has also incurred massive losses: Rs. 5.32 crore in 2012-13 and Rs. 15.67 crore in 2013-14. KAPL has also taken an accumulated loan of nearly Rs. 277 crore.
Another air charter company, Himalayaputra Aviation Ltd, which is owned by the Jaypee Group, is also operating under losses of Rs. 7.07 lakh in 2011-12 and Rs. 10.32 crore in 2012-13. When Cobrapost e-mailed Himalayaputra Aviation Ltd seeking details of how and how much they paid for the air charters, the company’s profit/losses, the company replied seeking a week’s time to reply.
Ashley Aviation Pvt Ltd, owned by the Hinduja Group, has incurred losses of Rs.21.89 lakh in 2011-12 and Rs. 3.43 crore in 2012-13. Hiranandani Aviation Pvt Ltd incurred losses of Rs. 6.67 crore in 2010-11, Rs. 9.38 crore in 2011-12 and Rs. 7.60 crore in 2012-13.
Airmid Aviation Services Pvt Ltd reported a loss of Rs. 1,513.85 lakh in 2009-10, Rs. 1,084.60 lakh in 2010-11, Rs. 156.36 lakh in 2011-12 and Rs. 271.48 lakh in 2012-13. The company’s accumulated losses were Rs. 4,240.85 lakh in 2009-10, Rs. 5,325.47 lakh in 2010-11, Rs. 6,051.96 lakh in 2011-12 and Rs. 6,323.45 lakh in 2012-13 showing a northward trend.
When Cobrapost e-mailed Airmid Aviation Services Pvt Ltd seeking details of how and how much they paid for the air charters, the company’s profit/losses, the company replied that “in FY 2014 , Airmid reported a Profit before Tax of Rs. 18.9cr. Charter business like airlines business is a tough business and starts generating money after few years. Since FY2010-11, Airmid has been making operating profits”. “On your other queries, it will not be appropriate for details of a contract between a private company and its customers to be made public… clients of charter services are generally governments, political parties and high profile personalities and confidentiality is important since most of our customers desire privacy and require security besides convenience. That said, we can confirm that general charter rates of Rs 1.25 lacs – Rs 1.5 lacs per hour are levied for all flights”. It added that “receipts from NCP exceed Rs 60 lacs”.
Global Vectra Helicorp Ltd also reported losses: Rs. 4,437.74 lakh in 2010-11 and Rs. 2,415.84 lakh in 2011-12. However, it made profits of Rs. 685.31 lakh and Rs. 549.15 lakh in 2013-2014 and 2012-13 respectively. EIH Ltd reported profits of Rs. 9,504.1 lakhs, Rs. 5,096.45 lakhs and Rs. 12,241.90 lakhs in the FYs 2013-2014, 2012-2013 and 2011-2012 respectively.
With most of the air charter companies running into massive losses, this raises another question: how are these companies still operating despite suffering repeated losses running into crores of rupees and why are they in the business of air charter if it is not a viable venture?
In March 2014, the DGCA cracked down on charter companies flying election candidates. The agency asked the companies to report to it regularly on operational issues every Monday.
The salary of a chief minister in India ranges from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 30,000 per month, apart from various other allowances. Every chief minister is allotted just Rs. 50,000 a year for travel expenses. This would make it impossible for a chief minister to pay for a chartered flight out of his own pocket. Then the question is: who paid for the politicians’ chartered flights and why, and whether any payment was actually made to the charter companies? A member of parliament gets Rs. 50,000 per month and an additional Rs. 2,000 for each day he/she attends either House. Apart from this, an MP is entitled to a traveling allowance if he is traveling by road at the rate of Rs. 16 per kilometer. An MP’s spouse is also entitled to this allowance eight times a year subject to certain conditions and any number of times by railway in first-class air conditioned or executive class. A cabinet minister gets around Rs. 50,000 as salary apart from other allowances.
While most of the very people who elect politicians to power reel under inflation and rising cost of survival, the same politicians have been flying across the country in plush private jets and chartered aircraft. While each flight costs lakhs of rupees, information with Cobrapost from the AAI threw up some startling news: most of the chartered flights were in aircraft owned by business houses, raising several questions.
An eight-seater Hawker 900 XP aircraft costs Rs. 2,25,000 per hour on hire. A small jet has a maximum cruise speed of around 700 kmph. The distance from Delhi to Bangalore, as the crow flies, is 1,745 km. Hence, an eight-seater jet would take approximately 2.5 hours to fly the distance, costing around Rs. 5,60,000. Charter companies also charge Rs. 50,000 for the crew, plus landing and ground handling charges, which vary at each airport. So the total cost of an eight-seater charter flight from Delhi to Bangalore would cost approximately Rs. 7 lakh. In case the aircraft has to wait for a return flight, additional charges of Rs. 20,000 per hour are applicable. Rates for a chartering a six-seater Bell helicopter are Rs. 75,000 per hour plus additional charges. (*These are approximate/average costs calculated on charges mentioned on the website of an air charter company. In the run-up to elections, the charges are hiked).
Ministers freely used private and chartered aircraft to fly around with their families even though their kin are not entitled to travel in chartered flights paid by the government. They used chartered aircraft to go on holidays. Politicians also flew in aircraft belonging to various business houses.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal used private planes of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd., Span Air and Global Vectra Ltd. On May 3, 2013, he flew to Bhagwanpura in Haryana from Amritsar in a chartered aircraft of Global Vectra Ltd with Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal (since 2009), environment minister Bikram Singh Majithia and information technology minister APS Karon. Parkash Singh Badal has been the chief minister since 2007, serving his third term.
On September 3, 2013, Parkash Singh Badal used the aerial route from Amritsar to Delhi on a chartered flight of the Jindal Group with Akali Dal MPs Balvinder Singh Bhundar and Sukhdev Singh Dhinsa and MLA Majindar Singh Sarsa. On September 9, he used Span Air to visit Bhatinda from Ahmedabad with chief secretary S.K. Sandhu. Then on December 13, 2013, Parkash Singh flew from Jaipur to Delhi with Sukhbir Singh Badal and Sukhbir’s wife and MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal and three others in an AR Airways charter jet.
Sukhbir Singh Badal also used air charter services of corporate houses. On April 13, 2013, he travelled to Bhatinda from Amritsar with his wife and MP Harsimrat Kaur and on June 14, 2013, from Amritsar to Chandigarh on a GMR chartered flight. On May 3, he went to Chandigarh from Amritsar with environment minister Bikram Singh Majithia in an Orbit Aviation jet, from Delhi to Amritsar on July 12 and subsequently from Amritsar to Delhi with his wife Harsimrat, daughter Harkirat Kaur and Bikram Singh Majithia on an Orbit Aviation flight. On May 11, 2013, Sukhbir Singh Badal went to Chandigarh from Amritsar in a Span Air aeroplane.
Orbit Aviation is owned by Sukhbir Singh and his wife’s brother Bikram Singh Majithia.
On December 7 and 8, 2012, the then union power minister Jyotiraditya Scindia travelled on Jaypee group chartered flights from Vadodara to a destination that the charter company has not disclosed to the AAI. Then on December 8, 2012, Scindia went from Vadodara to Delhi in a Span Group nine-seater Hawker 900 XP jet. The distance of 800 km would take just over an hour at an approximate total cost of Rs. 4 lakh.
The first chief minister of Chhattisgarh Ajit Jogi (2000 to 2003) flew from Raipur to Bortalav (Rajnandgaon) on November 2, 2013, and the next day from Raipur to Kota in Rajasthan, both in Trans Bharat aircraft.
On November 16, 2013, he went to Pendervani, Durg, again in a Trans Bharat aircraft. When he flew from Raipur to Jagdalpur on September 25, 2013, and on September 26 from Raipur to Delhi with his son and MLA Amit Jogi on a chartered flight of the Saurya Aviation Pvt Ltd. Jogi had also used various other chartered aircraft companies for his other aerial sojourns in November 2013 from Raipur, whose destinations was not disclosed by the AAI.
When Cobrapost contacted Amit Jogi via e-mail with a set of questions regarding his use of chartered aircraft, he replied: “It was chartered to fly my father Shri Ajit Jogi, who is confined to a wheelchair and cannot travel by road for long distances, to Jagdalpur to participate in a public meeting addressed by AICC (All India Congress Committee) Vice President Shri Rahul Gandhi. The flight originated in Delhi and returned to Delhi via Raipur and Jagdalpur. My father and me were aboard on the Raipur-Jagdalpur-Raipur-Delhi sector along with his security and para-medical personnel.” About the cost of the flight, Amit Jogi said: “I don’t remember the exact figure but it was about Rs. 6,00,000/-“ and that the cheque for payment was “issued by AICC”.
During the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election over the Mahasamund seat, 11 independent candidates named Chandu Lal Sahu filed their nominations. At the time, Jogi’s main contender was the BJP’s Chandu Lal Sahu, who eventually won the election by small margin of 133 votes. Jogi was accused of planting the names to confuse voters.
On August 6, 2013, while she was a Rajya Sabha member, BJP leader and now Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani travelled with the owner of Rear Enterprises Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, share trader Radha Krishna Damani and ASK Group chairman Asit Kotecha from Ahmedabad to Mumbai in an aircraft belonging to the Freedom Charter Services. She also flew from Raipur to Surguja in Chhattisgarh on November 15, 2013, in a Himalayan Heli Services Pvt Ltd aircraft. She used the same air charter company to fly from Raipur to Raigarh the next two days with Sobha Soni, president of Chhattisgarh Mahila Morcha state president.
When Cobrapost e-mailed a questionnaire to Rakesh Jhunjhunwala seeking payment an other details, the corporate communications department of Aptech Ltd – a company owned by Jhunjhunwala – replied that “the payment was made by cheque” and that Jhunjhunwala paid Rs. 218,283, Ohm Share & Stock Brokers Pvt. Ltd. (Shri Amal Parikh) paid Rs.109,142, Asit Koticha paid Rs.109,142, Derive Investments (Shri R K Damani) paid Rs.109,142, adding up to a total of Rs. 545,709. Smriti Irani’s name was not in the list of those who paid for the flight.
Cine star of yesteryears and BJP Lok Sabha member Shatrughan Sinha too availed the services of corporate houses. On May 6, 2013, Sinha travelled on a chartered flight of Span Air with Shival Sahai, director of Chandrawati Coal Mover Private Limited, from Bhopal to Ranchi in Jharkhand. The 810 km journey was done in six-seater Premier 1-A jet and would have cost around Rs. 3 lakh. Then on November 27, 2013, Sinha flew from Jaipur to Delhi in a chartered aircraft.
When Cobrapost contacted Shatrughan Sinha via e-mail with a set of questions regarding his use of chartered aircraft, his chartered accountant Shaival Sahai wrote back saying that Sinha used the charter flights to attend weddings in Bhopal and Ranchi. About the Jaipur-Delhi air charter, he said that “this was to bring him back to Delhi from the campaigning in Rajasthan during the last assembly election in Rajasthan.”
Congress leader and the then MP from Narsapur in Andhra Pradesh Kanumuri Bapi Raju travelled from Tirupati to Delhi on a chartered flight of Navyuga Engineering on June 1, 2013. This aircraft of Navyuga Engineering with the call sign VT-CKP is not in the DGCA’s list of non-schedule operator’s permit holders, according to documents available with Cobrapost, raising the question that how is it being allowed to fly. On February 28, 2014, Kanumuri Bapi Raju flew from Tirupati to Koppal in Karnataka in an aircraft belonging to the Taurean Iron and Steel Company Pvt Ltd.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav flew from Jaipur to Agra in Punj Lloyd Aviation chartered aircraft on November 5, 2013, with his secretary Pandhari Yadav and five others.
Amit Deshmukh, Congress MLA from Latur in Maharashtra and son of late Vilasrao Deshmukh (who was the chief minister of Maharashtra), flew to Mumbai from Jaipur on March 21, 2014, with his wife Aditi in an Arimid Aviation chartered aircraft belonging to Indiabulls Group.
Hemant Soren, chief minister of Jharkhand and son of former chief minister of the state Shibu Soren, has also been flying high. On March 29 and 30, he flew in aircraft owned by Davangere Sugar Company Ltd, which is based in Karnataka. On the first occasion, he went from Ranchi to Barhawar, Sahibgan and the next day Ranchi to Dumka. According to documents with Cobrapost, he flew nine more times in chartered aircraft.
Lok Sabha member from Bhagalpur, Bihar, Shahnawaz Hussain flew in aircraft owned by Bharat Hotels three times in 2013. On November 29, he went to Hanumangarh from Jaipur, on November 27 from Jaipur to Dausa and from Jaipur to Sawai Madhopur on November 25.
During UPA-II, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who had issued a directive to all party cadres in 2012 that they should fly economy class in commercial airlines, also flew in chartered flights. Violating her own directive, she flew from Jaipur to Delhi on November 27, 2013, in a chartered aircraft with Congress MP Gurudas Kamat and five others. She had flown from Mangalore to Delhi on October 18, 2012, in a Taj Air aircraft, details of which Cobrapost got through the manifest of Air India SATS Airport Services Private Limited. In September 2009, just after issuing the cabin class directive, she flew to Mumbai from Delhi in economy class. She had urged UPA ministers to strictly adhere to austerity measures to cut down on spending public money.
While he was the union finance minister, President Pranab Mukherjee used the GMR Group’s aircraft at least four times. The first time he flew from Thiruvananthapuram to Chennai on April 10, 2011. He flew with Narayan Sami, former Congress general secretary and in-charge of party affairs in Chhattisgarh from Thiruvananthapuram to Delhi on July 4, 2012, in a Falcon 2000 E nine-seater aircraft chartered from GMR Aviation Pvt Ltd. The flight time in the aircraft would be approximately 3.5 hours. GMR Aviation charges Rs. 3.50 lakh per hour for its Falcon 2000 E, plus other charges. Hence, this flight itself would have cost Rs. 12.25 lakh (flying time) plus Rs. 50,000 for the crew plus landing and ground handling charges. The total cost for the journey would amount to approximately Rs. 14 lakh.
On July 11, 2012, Mukherjee flew from Delhi to Ranchi and back in a GMR aircraft with seven others. Mukherjee again used GMR Group aircraft July 12, 2012, from Delhi to Ranchi and back to Delhi, and was accompanied by then Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmad, Lok Sabha member from Ranchi Subodh Kant Sahai and then minister for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla in a GMR Group aircraft. AAI did not provide details of Mukherjee’s flight to Ranchi from Delhi before he flew back to Delhi from Jharkhand’s capital.
On September 12, 2009, Mukherjee had flown economy class in a commercial airline after Sonia Gandhi’s austerity directive. “It’s nothing new to me. During elections and whenever I travel on commercial flights, I almost (always) travelled economy class. It’s nothing new,” he had told The Hindu and other newspapers on September 12, 2009.
Sonia Gandhi’s son and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi followed his mother’s flight plan. On February 23, 2014, Rahul Gandhi flew from Dehradun to Delhi in a GMR Aviation Pvt Ltd jet with Rajya Sabha member Ambika Soni and three others. On October 23, 2013, he flew with his political aide Kanishka Singh from Jaipur to Delhi on a chartered flight. On November 16, he again flew with Kanishka Singh and two others from Raipur to Delhi in a GMR aircraft. However, Rahul had once taken Sonia’s directive in all earnestness: he went to Ludhiana from Delhi in Shatabdi Express in September 2009.
The BJP was not to be left behind in whizzing around in private jets. Party president Rajnath Singh, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani and other party leaders flew in aircraft belonging to corporate houses. Rajnath Singh flew in a GMR aircraft at least once and twice in one of ARC Aviation. He also used the services of Business Jets Pvt. Ltd. and AR Airways at least once.
On February 7, 2014, Rajnath Singh – now the Home Minister — his personal assistant Prabhat Tripathi, parliamentarian Kaptan Singh Solanki and BJP joint secretary Saudan Singh flew from Jaipur to Hapur in an aircraft owned by Bharat Hotels Pvt Ltd.
Singh flew from Thiruvananthapuram to Delhi on February 9, 2014, in a Falcon 2000 nine-seater jet of Ligare Aviation Ltd. The distance being 2,244 km with a flying time of around 3.2 hours, this charter would have cost approximately Rs. 11 lakh in all.
On April 11, 2013, Rajnath Singh, BJP national co-ordinator Sudhan Singh, party general secretary Ramlal and Rajya Sabha member J.P. Nadda travelled from Raipur to Delhi on an SRC Aviation chartered flight. Rajnath Singh again flew in the company’s aircraft with other party members on May 20, 2013, from Ranchi to Delhi. Again on May 29, 2013, Rajnath Singh flew to Delhi from Raipur in GMR Aviation’s Hawker 750 nine-seater jet with Sudhan Singh and Nadda. The air distance from Raipur to the national capital is 950 km. Taking the flight time to be slightly over an hour at a cruise speed of 700 kmph, this flight would have cost around Rs. 4.50 lakh.
When he took an SRC Aviation chartered flight on December 6, 2013, from Jaipur to Delhi, Rajnath Singh was with BJP leaders K.P. Singh, Sudhanshu and Delhi state executive committee member Nirmal Jain.
On June 20, 2013, he flew in an AR Airways aircraft from Dehradun to Delhi with former Uttarakhand chief minister Nishank and the state’s BJP president Tirath Singh Rawat. Then on July 7, 2013, Rajnath Singh flew from Kolkata-Amritsar-Delhi on another chartered flight provided by Business Jets Private Limited. On August 16, 2013, he travelled from Raipur to Delhi on a flight provided by Business Jets Private Limited. He was accompanied by BJP national general secretary Ramlal and Rajya Sabha member Nadda.
On November 28, 2013, Rajnath Singh flew from Jaipur to Jodhpur with other BJP leaders in a Punj Lloyd Aviation aircraft. Then on December 13, 2013, Rajnath Singh flew with then BJP vice president Venkaiah Naidu, BJP leader Jaswant Singh, BJP national spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi, former chief minister of Jharkhand Arjun Munda, MP Shahnawaz Hussain and Bihar MLA Sushil Modi from Jaipur to Delhi.
He flew nine more times in chartered aircraft, according to documents with Cobrapost.
Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani too used chartered flights from corporate houses on several occasions. On January 21, 2014, he flew with his personal assistant Deepak Chopra and three others from Jaipur to Delhi in a Punj Lloyd Aviation aircraft. He had used the same charter company to fly from Jaipur to Indore on December 13, 2013. A day earlier, Advani had flown from Raipur to Delhi with his daughter Pratibha Advani, Deepak Chopra, Rajya Sabha members Ravi Shankar Prasad and Piyush Goel in a Ligare Aviation aircraft.
On October 20, 2010, he flew in a European Project and Aviation Limited (EPAL) aircraft from Mangalore to Delhi. On December 12, 2010, he flew from Mangalore to Mumbai on a chartered flight of Jupiter Aviation Service Pvt. Ltd., an aircraft charter company. Again on April 10, 2011, the BJP leader availed the services of AR Airways for his aerial journey from Thiruvananthapuram to Madurai.
When Cobrapost contacted Advani via e-mail with a set of questions regarding his use of chartered aircraft, his secretary wrote back saying that “all the journeys listed in your mail were undertaken by him in the capacity of Chairman BJP Parliamentary Party and for Party work.
On these trips he was at times accompanied by some family member, party office bearer, party worker and at all times by an aide. All the trips were arranged and organised by the BJP and the necessary payments to the air charter operators were also made by the BJP.”
Jupiter Aviation while responding to the questionnaire sent by Cobrapost said: “Jupiter Aviation, as an established air charter operator, provides air charter services to many customers across the country. Please be assured that all services rendered by Jupiter Aviation are rendered in compliance with applicable law and commercial prudent terms in accordance with its polices as in force from time to time
We request you to note and appreciate that Confidentiality obligations do not permit us to provide you any information regarding specific customers, or to make such related information public in any way.”
RTI documents reveal that during his tenure as the union agriculture minister, NCP chief Sharad Pawar used a chartered flight of Karnawati Aviation Private Limited belonging to the Adani Group April 19, 2012, to fly from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad. At that time, Pawar was the union agriculture minister. Along with him was union minister of state for agriculture Charan Das Mahant. This 882 km journey in the nine-seater CL 600 2B jet that they flew in would have cost approximately Rs. 5 lakh.
Sharad Pawar’s wife Pratibha Pawar used the services of the Adani Group to fly in one of their private jets from Mumbai to Vadodara and back to Mumbai on January 11, 2014, with six of her associates.
The NCP chief had used an aircraft of Zest Aviation Pvt Ltd on December 21, 2013, to fly from Ahmedabad to Pune via Vadodara, with Abhay Jambhekar and Hemangee Jambhekar, directors of Vasumitra Life Energies Pvt Ltd.
In 2009 when the NCP was a UPA ally, Pawar had flown in economy class following Sonia Gandhi’s directive that all UPA ministers should fly commercial airlines instead of using chartered planes.
While being the leader of Opposition, Sushma Swaraj availed the services of Bajaj Aviation of the Bajaj Group, VSL Aviation, SS Aviation and ARC aviation for her aerial movements. Swaraj is now the external affairs minister. On November 7, 2013, she went to Bhopal from Raipur with her personal assistant Suman Gupta in an aircraft owned by the Dainik Bhaskar Group. Two days later, she and Suman Gupta travelled in an aircraft belonging to the same group. from Raipur to Delhi. On September 25, 2013, she, BJP leader Uma Bharati and BJP leader Ananth Kumar flew from Bhopal to Jamburi on a chartered flight belonging to the Bajaj Group.
When Cobrapost contacted Ananth Kumar via e-mail with a set of questions regarding his use of chartered aircraft, his secretary replied that “Ananth Kumar attended the Mahakumbh Rally organized by the State Unit of Bharatiya Janata Party, Madhya Pradesh at Jamburi Maidan, Bhopal, on 25 September, 2013. This event was also attended by other national and state BJP leaders”.
On April 8, 2011, Swaraj went to Tirupati from Thiruvananthapuram on an SS aviation chartered flight. She availed the services of VSL Aviation on the same day for her journey from Thiruvananthapuram to Kanyakumari. She again used an SS Aviation aircraft on December 1, 2012, to fly from Vadodara to Delhi. SS Aviation belongs to Congress leader and a former minister in Karnataka government Shamnoor Shivsangrappa while VSL Aviation is owned by Congress leader Anil Lad. VSL Aviation, apart from providing commercial chartered services, is also a big player in the field of mining in India.
Former BJP president and current transport minister Nitin Gadkari also availed the services of chartered flights. On April 24, 2014, he went to Ahmedabad from Surat with Maharashtra BJP state secretary Ashok Shinde in a private jet. On November 9, 2013, Gadkari went to Nagpur from Raipur in a chartered jet. On December 12 the same year, he took a SARC aviation private jet from Raipur to Lucknow. On December 14, 2013, he flew from Jaipur to Nagpur with his spokesperson Ashok Tandon and BJP national executive member and industrialist Rajesh Shah in a Simm Samm Airways jet.
On January 16, 2011, while he was the BJP president, he flew to Mumbai from Mangalore in a Eurpoean Project & Aviation Limited aircraft with Videsh Coal Services Private Limited chairman C. Uday Bhaskar. He then flew to Delhi from Vadodara on October 11, 2012, with BJP MP Balbir Punj, BJP joint general secretary V. Satish and party leader Rameshwar Chaurasia in an aircraft owned by the Punj Lloyd Group. On February 14, 2010, Gadkari availed the services of a chartered flight of Ligare Aviation for his journey from Thiruvananthapuram to Delhi. This 2,224 km one-hour flight would have cost Gadkari approximately Rs. 11 lakh.
Vasundhara Raje, chief minister of Rajasthan, flew numerous times in 2014, the year of the Lok Sabha elections. On April 5, 2014, she went to Bundi in Rajasthan from the state capital Jaipur in a Pawan Hans helicopter. On April 3, 2014, she flew from Jaipur to Karauli again in a Pawan Hans chopper. On April 2, 2014, the BJP leader went to Salumber from Jaipur, using the services of the same charter company. On March 28, 2014, she flew to Barmer from Jaipur in an aircraft owned by Ghodawat Enterprises Pvt Ltd, whose businesses include renewable energy, textiles, mining real estate and education. On March 25 the same year she again used a Ghodawat Enterprises aircraft to fly from Jaipur to Ajmer. On March 22, 2014, she flew in an aircraft owned by Bharat Hotels from Jaipur to Churu. In 2013, Raje flew at least 15 times in chartered aircraft, details of which are with Cobrapost.
In 2013, the then chief minister of Andhra Pradesh Kiran Kumar Reddy flew to Bangalore from Tirupati on September 8 in a chartered jet. This short flight of 210 km would have taken less than half an hour, costing around Rs. 1.75 lakh. The same month on the 28th, he flew from Tirupati to Kalikiri and on November 21, from Tirupati to Hyderabad on chartered aircraft of the GMR Group. On October 28, Reddy used the private jet of Navyuga Engineerings Ltd, a company dealing in industrial infrastructure. This company is not in the list of the DGCA’s list of non-scheduled operators permit holders.
B.S. Yeddyurappa, while he was the chief minister of Karnataka, flew from Mangalore to Bangalore on January 18, 2010, with the inspector general of police Gopal Hasur, in a chartered aircraft. On May 15, 2010, he and his cabinet colleague Janardhan Reddy took a chartered from Mangalore to Mysore. Reddy then flew to Bangalore from Mangalore on May 22. On November 17, 2010, Yeddyurappa used a private jet of the VRL Group to travel from Mangalore to Bangalore with BJP leaders C.C. Patil, V.S Acharya and Hasur. VRL group has business interests in road transportation, logistics, publishing etc.
Again on August 14, 2010, Yeddyurappa flew from Mangalore to Mysore and on December 11 Mangalore to Bangalore on a Ligare Aviation flight. On October 7, he travelled from Mangalore to Kunnur district on an OSS Air Management Private Ltd charter flight.
In 2012, then the chief minister of Karnataka Jagdish Shettar used a GMR aircraft on August 25 for his journey from Mangalore to Bangalore. On January 2, 2010 the chief minister, his wife Shilpa Shettar and sons Prashant and Sankalp travelled by a charter flight of Jyoti Aviation from Thiruvananthapuram to Bangalore.
While he was chief minister of Karnataka (August 2011 to July 2012), Union Minister of Law and Justice D.V. Sadanand Gowda took a chartered flight from Bangalore to Mangalore on October 11, 2011; from Mangaore to Puttur on October 12, and from Mangalore to Bangalore on October 25 in an OSS Pvt. Ltd. aircraft. Sadanand Gowda and state education minister Vishweshwara Kageri travelled from Mangalore to Bangalore on a Business Jets India flight on October 31, 2011. When the chief minister flew to Bangalore from Thiruvananthapuram on January 1, 2012 in a chartered aircraft of the VRL Group, he was with top cop Gopal Hasur.
Narayan Rane, chief minister of Maharashtra in 1999, was accompanied by his wife Neelam Rane and Maharashtra Congress general secretary Javed Shroff when he went Mumbai from Mangalore on January 16, 2013. The aircraft was a chartered one from the Raymond Group.
Congress leader and former chief minister of Haryana Nirmal Singh also took a GMR chartered flight on August 19, 2013, from Amritsar to Delhi with Surina Uppal, director of Allure Developers Private Ltd. and Surpreet Singh Puri of Vistar Constructions Pvt. Ltd.
Congress MP from Kollar and former minister K.M. Muniyappa used chartered flights belonging to the Jindal group at least four times during his tenure as a union minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. On August 10, 2010, he flew from Mangalore to Bangalore and on September 9, 2012, from Mangalore toVidyanagar and from Vidyanagar to Mangalore the same day on a chartered flight of the Jindal Group.
Congress leader and former minister of social justice and empowerment from 2009 to 2011 Mukul Wasnik used a India Flysafe Aviation Ltd charter aircraft to go from Raipur to Bilaspur (in Chhattisgarh) on November 17, 2013. He was accompanied by Rajya Sabha member Renuka Chaudhary and Youth Congress leader Ejaz Dhebar. Wasnik also travelled from Vadodara to Ahmedabad on December 2, 2012, on a chartered flight of the Jaypee Group.
On August 3, 2013, former minister for information and broadcasting Ambika Soni took a chartered flight of Orbit Aviation from Dehradun to GCT Helipad (in Uttarakhand). Orbit Aviation belongs to Punjab minister Bikram Siingh Majithia.
Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and senior Congress leaders Moti Lal Vora, Ambika Soni and state president of Haryana Congress Bhoolchand Mulana travelled from Dehradun to Delhi on June 23, 2013, in a chartered aircraft of the Ligare Group. The 200 km distance in the chartered Falcon 2000 nine-seater jet would have cost around Rs. 3 lakh.
On November 29, 2013, Hooda flew to Delhi from Jaipur in an Aircar Airlines Pvt Ltd chartered jet. Hooda went to Delhi from Jaipur on November 25, 2013, in an Air Charter services aircraft. On November 24, 2013, Hooda went to Bikaner from Jaipur in an India Flysafe charter plane. He flew 5 more times in a charted flight according to documents with Cobrapost.
Then on December 12, 2012, former Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswami flew from Mangalore to Bangalore on a Deccan Air Commerical Charter flight.
Former union water resource management minister and current Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat travelled from state capital Dehradun to S. Dhara on March 14, and 21, 2014, in UT Air India aircraft. On March 13, 2014, he flew to Delhi from Dehradun in a Ligare Aviation aircraft and on March 23, from Dehradun to S. Dhara using the services of UT Air India Pvt Ltd. He also flew from Dehradun to Delhi in a chartered aircraft of Air Charter Services Pvt. Ltd. on September 29, 2013. On March 27 and 28, 2014, Rawat flew from Dehradun to Delhi with revenue minister Yashpal Arya in a Bharat Hotel’s aircraft.
Kantlal Bhuria (tribal affairs minister from May 2009 to July 2011) travelled from Bhopal to Indore on a Span Air flight on September 12, 2013, with Congress general secretary Mohan Prakash, leader of Opposition in Madhya Pradesh Ajay Singh and the then MP from Khandwa Arun Yadav. Incidentally, Span Air belongs to Congress MP Kamal Nath’s family while ARC Aviation, Business Jets Private Limited and AR Airways are commercial charter service providers.
On another occasion, Bhuria and Ajay Singh, travelled from Bhopal to Chindwara on September 30, 2013, on an OSS Aviation owned chartered flight.
JMM president and former Jharkhand chief minister and Shibu Soren and the current chief minister Hemant Soren travelled from Ranchi to Dumka on a flight of Air charter services on September 24, 2012. On March 31, 2014, Shibu Soren flew to Dumka in Jharkhand from the state capital in an aircraft owned by Davangere Sugar Company Ltd, based in Karnataka.
Minister for Steel and Mines Narendra Singh Tomar travelled at least seven times in chartered flights belonging to Orbit Aviation. On September 11, 2013,– when Tomar was Madhya Pradesh unit president of the BJP — he flew from Bhopal to Mandsaur with MLA Jagdish Deora; on September 12 from Bhopal to Sajapur, on September 13 from Bhopal to Chindwara, on September 14 from Bhopal to Sironch with Rajya Sabha member Anil Dave, on September 17 from Bhopal to Tikamgarh, on September 20 from Bhopal to Jaipur and on September 22 from Bhopal to Amba near Gwalior. September, it seems, was a busy frequent flier month for Tomar. On October 8, 2013, Tomar flew from Jaipur to Bhopal in an Orbit Aviation aircraft.
Congress leader Subodh Kant Sahay took several aerial journeys on chartered flights belonging to corporate houses. On June 7, 2012, he flew from Ranchi to Bangalore on Powerfloid Aviation; on September 15, 2012, from Mangalore to Bekal in Kerala on a Lalit Group flight.At that time he was a Lok Sabha member from Ranchi, Jharkhand.
Senior Congress leader from Gujarat Arjun Mothwadia travelled from Vadodara to Jamnagar on a Ligare flight on January 8, 2012. On April 13 and 18, 2014, he travelled from Surat to Ahmedabad in an India Flysafe Aviation Ltd jet.
On June 1, 2013, former Congress MP Vijay Indra Singla flew from Tirupati to Bangalore on a chartered flight belonging to Navyuga Engineering, an infrastructure company.
Former Rajya Sabha member Tarlochan Singh used a J.K. Laxmi Group chartered flight on June 19, 2013, to go from Ahmedabad to Chandigarh.
BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member Anil Madhav Dev travelled on an Orbit Aviation flight from Bhopal to Hoshangabad on September 15, 2013, and on September 25 from Bhopal to Jambhorie on a flight belonging to Bharat Hotel Ltd.
Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Vijay Darda on April 12, 2013, took an Indo-Pacific Aviation flight from Dehradun to Delhi.
On August 27, 2013, BJP MP Vishnu Dev Sai travelled from Raipur to Jaishpur with Chhattisgarh minister Kedar Kashyap, BJP MLA Mahesh Gagra and former BJP MLA Chandrashekhar Sahu on a chartered flight belonging to Orbit Aviation.
Agriculture minister of Chhattisgarh Brijmohan Agrawal flew from Raipur to Jashpur Nagar with BJP MLAs Hemchanda Yadav, Devjibhai Patel, and Shiv Ratna Sharma on April 17, 2013 on a SKB Infracon Limited flight. On May 29, 2013, Agrawal and Chhattisgarh home minister Nanki Ram travelled on a Ligare aviation chartered flight from Raipur to Bilaspur. On August 16, Agrawal flew from Raipur to Jashpur Nagar in a Global Vectra Helicopter with Chhattisgarh assembly speaker Dharm Lal Kaushik, MLAs Hemchandra Yadav, Prem Prakash Pandey and former MLA Chandrashekhar Sahu. Again on August 27, Agrawal preferred an aerial journey on an Orbit Aviation chartered flight from Raipur to Jashpur Nagar with Rajya Sabha member Jagat Pratap Nadda, MLAs Prem Prakash Pandey, Hemchandra Yadav, Abhishek Singh (son of chief minister Raman Singh) and Devjibhai Patel. According to documents with Cobrapost, Agarwal flew four more times in chartered aircraft.
Arjunbhai Modhwala, former president of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee took an India Flysafe aircraft to go to Ahmedabad from Surat on April 13, 2014. On March 18, he again flew Ahmedabad from Surat in a charter plane, this time with Congress leader Vijay Kella, Gujarat Congress general secretary Mihir Shah and state secretary Dipam Bhatt.
Former chief minister of Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot of the Congress also used Ligare Aviation to fly from Jaipur to Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan on April 9, 2014. On April 2, 2014, he went to Alwar from Jaipur and from Jaipur to Bharatpur on April 3, using the same charter company for both trips. On February 26, 2014, he flew from Jaipur to Delhi in a GMR Aviation aircraft. Earlier on January 25, 2014, Gehlot went to Jodhpur from Jaipur in an India Flysafe plane. On November 26, 2013, he went to Bharatpur from Jaipur in an India Flysafe chartered aircraft. On November 28, 2013, he flew from Jaipur to Tilwari in Rajasthan using International Air Charter Operations Pvt Ltd. According to documents with Cobrapost, Gehlot flew at least 12 more times in 2013 in chartered flights.
While he was a Congress MP from Odisha, Bhakta Charan Das flew from Raipur to Kanker in Chhattisgarh on November 8, 2013, and from Raipur to Dhumar on November 17. Both times he used the services of Trans Bharat Aviation Pvt. Ltd.
On January 22, 2014, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia flew from Jaipur to Delhi in an Orbit Aviation jet. The charter company is owned by the Majithia family, and Bikram Singh is the brother-in-law of Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Babu Lal Marandi, the first chief minister of Jharkhand in 2000 and founder and national president of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) is quite a jet-setting politician. On March 30, 2014, he took a chartered helicopter to Jamshedpur from Ranchi. A day earlier, he had zipped around in a helicopter from Ranchi to Garhwa to Palamu to Domaria, EastSinghbum to Pipzi to Ranchi. On March 28, he flew to Ramgarh from Ranchi in a helicopter. On March 27, he had flown to Hazaribagh from Ranchi in a SAR Aviation charter plane, and on March 26, from Ranchi to Kurdage to Banbira to Gangotoli to Lachraharh to Kara and back to Ranchi in a hired helicopter. Marandi used chartered aircraft on nine other occasions in March 2014 alone in election year, apparently to address rallies.
Rajya Sabha member and BJP leader from Rajasthan Bhupendra Yadav flew three times in April 2014 in chartered planes. On April 10, 2014,he took a Pawans Hans helicopter from Jaipur to Kota in Rajasthan. On April 8, 2014, he flew to Banswara from Jaipur in an AR Airways aircraft and on April 7, from Jaipur to Nagaur in a Pawans Hans helicopter. On November 28, 2013, he flew in a chartered aircraft from Jaipur to Sikar.
When Cobrapost e-mailed a set of questions to Bhupendra Yadav regarding his use of chartered aircraft, he replied: “The flights you have mentioned are of the period during the election campaign for the Rajasthan State Assembly Election 2013, where I was involved in campaigning. These flights must have been paid by the Bharatiya Janata Party.”
BJP vice-president and Rajya Sabha member C. P. Thakur used a Span Air Pvt Ltd aircraft to go from Raipur in Chhattisgarh to Delhi on December 12, 2013. He was accompanied by cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, Rajya Sabha member and Human Resource Development minister Smriti Irani and journalist and Rajya Sabha member Balbir Punj, all from the BJP.
The NCP’s Chhagan Bhujbal, a minister in the erstwhile Maharashtra government, flew with 12 others on October 20, 2013, from Ranchi to Ozar near Pune in an aircraft of Poonawala Aviation Pvt Ltd.
Congress leader C.P. Joshi and Vaibhav Gehlot, son of former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, flew to Udaipur from Jaipur on November 27, 2013, in an aircraft chartered from India Flysafe.
Charan Das Mahant, Congress MP from Chhattisgarh and Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing, is also a frequent flier in chartered aircraft. On October 30, 2013, he flew from Raipur to Bhanpuri to Randhwa to Jagdalpur (all within the state) in a Global Vectra Helicorp chopper. On November 4, 2013, he used the same charter company to fly to Ambikapur from Raipur. Then on November 10, he went to Bansakra from Raipur in a GMR aircraft and on November 14, to Bilaspur from Raipur in an India Flysafe one. He used the services of three other air charter companies the same month. On November 17, 2013, he flew from Raipur to Dharsiwa (in Raipur district) in an aircraft of Hiranandani Aviation, which belongs to a leading construction group.
Congress leader and Uttarakhand legislative assembly speaker G.S. Kunjwal used an aircraft of UT Air India Pvt Ltd to fly from Dehradun to Bageshwar on January 8, 2014.
Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Harish Rawat used private and chartered aircraft six times in March 2014. Some of his flights were in aircraft owned by Bharat Hotels. On March 21, 2014, he flew from Dehradun to Dhara in an UT Air India aircraft. He flew in aircraft owned by the Bharat Hotels group twice from Dehradun to Delhi: on March 27 and on March 28. On March 14, he flew in a UT Air India aircraft from Dehradun to Dhara again and from Dehradun to Delhi on March 14 via Ligare Aviation, according to documents availed from the AAI.
Yesteryear actress and Bharatnatyam dancer-turned-politician and Rajya Sabha member Hema Mailini flew in chartered aircraft thrice in November 2013. On November 27, she went to Bharatpur from Jaipur in a Pinnacle Air jet, on November 12 from Raipur to Khemariya (in Rajasthan), and from Raipur to Durg on November 13 using the services of Himalayan Heli Services Pvt Ltd.
On March 21, Hemant Soren flew from Ranchi to Bokaro and on March 18 from Ranchi to Pakur and Pakur to Dumka, both times in an Aryan Aviation aircraft. He went to Delhi from Ranchi with seven others on February 14 in an Orbit Aviation aircraft. In November 2013, he flew in chartered aircraft three times from Ranchi.
Rajya Sabha member from the BJP and union health minister J.P. Nadda used Air Charter Service twice in 2013 – on October 17 to fly from Raipur to Chitrakoot and on October 26 from Raipur to Bastar. He was with BJP leaders on both flights.
Actor and BJP Lok Sabha member Manoj Tiwari flew on chartered flights twice in 2013, according to documents with Cobrapost. On November 12, he went from Raipur to Koriya in Chhattisgarh. The next day he flew from Raipur to Varanasi. When Cobrapost contacted Tiwari via e-mail with a set of questions regarding his use of chartered aircraft, he replied that he “was in Chhattisgarh for party work” and that Varanasi is his hometown.
BJP leader and Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Uma Bharati used chartered aircraft to fly from Raipur to Rajnandgaon on November 8, 2013, and from Raipur to Kawardha the next day. She was chief minister of Madhya Pradesh from December 2003 to August 2004.
The number of flights and aircraft in this story are just a miniscule example and the tip of the iceberg of politicians’ penchant for high-flying in plush private and chartered aircraft from just a few airports in the country. There are hundreds of chartered flights that these politicians used from various other airports.
Cobrapost e-mailed a questionnaire to over 100 politicians and some individuals who hired and used chartered and private aircraft listing details of the flights and asking them who paid for the flights, the cost of the flights as per the invoice and the mode of payment thereof? Out of them, only 10 replied.
Cobrapost also e-mailed another set of questions to nearly 85 air charter companies, listing details of politicians and individuals who used air charters, their dates, destinations and aircraft used. Cobrapost asked the companies how much they charged for each flight, who paid for the flights, The individual(s) or the party they are affiliated with, the mode of payment, whether regular aviation charter rates were followed while leasing the aircraft to the said individuals and the companies’ profits/losses for the last three financial years. By 7 p.m. December 18th, 2014, 10 politicians and four companies replied. Of the four firms, one sought a week’s time to reply.
Cobrapost also e-mailed the two major national parties, the Congress and the BJP, giving them a detailed list of their politicians who used chartered aircraft, listing details of the flights and asking who paid for the flights, their cost as per the invoice and the mode of payment? Neither of the parties replied.


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