Campaign reaches feverish pitch; windfall profits for private buses
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Campaign reaches feverish pitch; windfall profits for private buses

April 21, 2024

No takers for KSRTC buses due to rules, regulations and accountability

Mysore/Mysuru: Private bus owners are currently experiencing a surge in demand for vehicles, driven by the Lok Sabha poll campaigning frenzy.

An estimated 500 private buses including 50-seater and 21-seaters have been commissioned to shuttle people to various political rallies in regions including Mysuru, Mandya and  Chamarajanagar.

Private bus owners from Mysuru, Kodagu, Tumakuru, Srirangapatna-Pandavapura belt and even Bengaluru are capitalising on this demand. In Mysuru alone, there are over 300 private tourist buses, alongside those operating on regular routes.

However, the KSRTC is facing challenges in finding any takers for its buses due to stringent regulations, meticulous accounting practices and a high level of accountability.

KSRTC Mysuru Divisional Controller (DC) G. Srinivas explained to Star of Mysore that those interested in hiring a KSRTC bus must adhere to specific regulations. These rules stipulate that the bus must cover a minimum distance of 350 kms.

Regardless of whether the bus travels the full distance, a fixed fee of Rs. 16,500 to the KSRTC is mandatory, along with an advance deposit of 20 percent of this amount, said KSRTC Mysuru Divisional Controller G. Srinivas. This upfront payment, totalling around Rs. 19,000 per day, must be made before hiring the bus.

Lack of demand for KSRTC

Despite having an abundance of buses available, there are no takers for KSRTC buses, even though the Corporation is willing to offer up to 100 or 200 buses if needed. This lack of demand is attributed to the enforcement of the Election Model Code of Conduct, which requires political parties to furnish a letter of permission from the Election Commission before utilising such services, Srinivas added.

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Moreover, the KSRTC strictly prohibits cash transactions and only allows account transfers to ensure transparency. In cases where buses are required for rallies in a particular place, the billing is directed to the respective candidate in whose favour the rally is organised.

The Election Commission has fixed a spending limit of Rs. 95 lakh per candidate and any accounted-for expenses incurred in hiring KSRTC buses will be billed to the respective candidate. However, this regulation does not apply if a political party opts to hire private buses. This exemption has led to a preference for private buses over KSRTC buses.

Furthermore, solely relying on KSRTC buses would significantly inflate a party’s expenditure beyond the Election Commission’s prescribed limit.

Two to three rallies a week

Vajregowda, the owner of Mahadeshwara Motors in Mysuru, operates a fleet of 30 buses, with 20 servicing regular routes and 10 designated for tourism and rental purposes. He points out that private buses offer a more cost-effective option compared to KSRTC buses, with competitive rates and no regulatory constraints.

“Our fleet of 15 to 20 buses has been extensively utilised in rallies organised by BJP-JD(S) and Congress in Mysuru and Mandya. Notably, rallies featuring prominent figures such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, CM Siddaramaiah and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi have seen our buses in operation,” he said.

Furthermore, events like the nomination filings of Mysuru-Kodagu BJP candidate Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar and Congress candidate M. Lakshmana witnessed the use of numerous private buses. Additionally, Siddaramaiah conducted rallies in Hunsur, Periyapatna, and Madikeri with several private buses deployed to facilitate transportation. Private buses are ferrying people to at least two to three massive rallies per week. They typically charge anywhere between Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 8,000 for shorter distances and Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 15,000 for longer distances per bus.

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“There is a higher demand for tempo travellers and 21-seater vehicles compared to 50-seater buses due to their quicker filling and faster transportation to rally venues,” he added.

Janardhan Prabhu, owner of SGRMS Travels in Kushalnagar, owns five tourist buses in addition to a couple of regular route buses. In Kodagu, more than 30 tourist buses are enlisted to transport people to rallies, he said.

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