On last day of campaigning for Gujarat Assembly polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is first passenger in sea-plane ride from Sabarmati Riverfront to Dharoi Dam
Hours before campaigning was scheduled to end for the second phase of the ongoing Gujarat Assembly polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi threw security protocols to the wind to take the first-ever seaplane ride from Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati Riverfront to Dharoi Dam in Mehsana district. Both Ahmedabad and Mehsana are scheduled to go to polls on December 14.
Tomorrow at 9:30 AM I will travel from Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad to Dharoi Dam via sea plane. After that will offer prayers to Maa Amba at Ambaji. With air, roads & rail connectivity, our Government is making efforts for harnessing waterways. All this is for 125 crore Indians!— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 11, 2017
The Prime Minister’s hour-long flight in the 6-seater Quest Kodiak aircraft attracted sharp jibes from his political rivals in the poll-bound state and even beyond it. Though the Prime Minister did not really announce any scheme attached to the seaplane, perhaps due to restrictions imposed as part of the Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct for the polls, the very fact that he embarked on the flight that has never been operated in the state before was a clear sign to the electorate that the service would soon be available for Gujaratis.
It was a very pleasing experience. I gave him safety briefing. He was a very good passenger. Sea planes are very common in many countries, it should be popular in India also as you have lakes, the rivers, the coastal areas: John Goulet, pilot of sea plane in which PM Modi flew pic.twitter.com/08xFmUULrC— ANI (@ANI) December 12, 2017
Modi claimed that he decided to take the seaplane to Dharoi Dam – and then back to the Sabarmati Riverfront – because the Ahmedabad police had denied him permission to carry out a road-show in the city as part of his poll campaign for the BJP. On Monday, he had announced at an election rally: “Tomorrow for the first time in the history of the country a seaplane will land on the Sabarmati river. I will go to Ambaji in the sea-plane after landing in Dharoi dam and come back (sic)… Our party had planned my road show tomorrow. However, the administration has not given permission and I had time so I decided to go to Ambaji in the sea-plane.”
The Prime Minister had added: “We cannot have airports everywhere, so our government has planned to have these sea-planes.”
Of course, the Prime Minister made a slight exaggeration, or at least a misrepresentation, by claiming that this was “for the first time in the history of the country that a seaplane will land on the Sabarmati River.” Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Ashok Gajapathi Raju had already beaten Modi to enjoy the first seaplane ride of the country at least three days earlier. Gadkari, the Union minister for surface transport who is said to be the brain behind the seaplane project, had even posted on Twitter his photographs taken on-board the seaplane operated by SpiceJet.
While the Prime Minister certainly would have thought that his seaplane adventure would make for good publicity, his critics didn’t seem to share the same view.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah alleged that the Prime Minister, a Z+ category security protectee, had broken security protocol by flying in a single-engine aircraft.
The Prime Minister also drew flak from Dalit leader and independent candidate from Gujarat’s Vadgam constituency, Jignesh Mevani while Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti leader Hardik Patel also took a jibe at him, wondering if the seaplane can be used by farmers in the state to air-drop fertilizers.
sea plane दूसरे देशों में बहुत समय से हैं।आज हमारे गुजरात में आया हैं काफ़ी ख़ुश हूँ।लेकिन चुनाव के अगले दिन ही आया वो बढ़िया बात हैं।किसान किट नाशक दवाई भी Plane से डाल सके एसा कुछ कीजिए— Hardik Patel (@HardikPatel_) December 12, 2017
Both Jignesh Mevani and Hardik Patel have been strident in their criticism of the BJP and Narendra Modi. The duo have also asked their followers – the Dalits and Patidars – to vote out the BJP and instead support the Congress in Gujarat. Mevani is contesting the polls as an independent candidate, with support from the Congress and several other Opposition parties.
Never one to miss the chance of taking a swipe at Narendra Modi, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav too had a one-liner for the Prime Minister’s seaplane sojourn – one that was laced with political innuendo.
ज़मीन नहीं रहती तो पानी और आसमाँ ही बचता ना!— Lalu Prasad Yadav (@laluprasadrjd) December 12, 2017
While the taunts and digs by Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Lalu Prasad were veiled, newly elected Congress president Rahul Gandhi was more scathing and direct in his attack at the Prime Minister’s seaplane ride.
Addressing reporters in Ahmedabad, Rahul Gandhi – who was on Monday declared president of the Congress party, a charge that he will formally take over from his mother Sonia Gandhi on December 16 – said: “Elections are in Gujarat and that should remain the main agenda. If Modi ji wants to fly in a seaplane… there is no problem with that but it is a distraction. The real question is what has been done for the people of Gujarat in the last 22 years. Why don’t they talk about development anymore?”