Mysuru: The Mysore Airport at Mandakalli may not be one of the busiest mini airport in India but over the last three months, the airport has been handling air and chopper traffic to the maximum, thanks to the election season.
For political parties, Mysuru region (Mysuru, Mandya, Ramanagaram, Hassan, Chamarajanagar and Kodagu) has acquired special status and no political party is ready to lose votes here. This is why the region is seeing frequent visits of VVIPs and VIPs including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Mysuru’s own Chief Minister Siddharamaiah.
It may be mentioned here that all the three leaders — Modi, Shah and Rahul — have Z+ category security and Modi has an extra layer of security that is provided by the Special Protection Group (SPG) that has separate choppers and armoured vehicles.
All these leaders are using the Mysore Airport as a transit point and land their official planes, chartered planes and choppers here and proceed towards other destinations in the region including far-flung Shravanabelagola and Chamarajanagar.
As a result, the Airport has been busy over the last three months handling special VVIP flights day and night apart from the lone daily flight from Mysuru to Hyderabad via Chennai. This TruJet flight that began its daily operations on Sept. 20, 2017 has a 72-seat capacity. It arrives at the airport at 7.20 pm and departs at 7.50 pm to Chennai and from there, it proceeds towards Hyderabad. On an average, each trip has over 65 to 70 passengers and according to airport authorities, the response has been good.
Rush Since February
Election dates in Karnataka were declared on Mar. 27 but the Mysore Airport has been witnessing VVIP traffic since the second week of February. It all started when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came in his special plane on a two-day visit on Feb. 18 and 19 where he inaugurated a slew of Railway projects and flew to Shravanabelagola in PM’s chopper to participate in the Mahamastakabhisheka.
Along with Modi’s plane, four more Indian Air Force (IAF) choppers (one for Modi for his short visits and three for his security personnel) had come to Mysuru and they had been accommodated at the Airport and also at Lalitha Mahal Helipad.
There was a break after Modi’s visit and on Mar. 25, Congress President Rahul Gandhi visited Mysuru in a special flight on the third leg of his “Janashirvad Yatra.” From Mysuru, Rahul used Mandakalli Airport to fly in a chopper to Mandya and Chamarajanagar.
Soon after the election schedule was announced on Mar. 27, BJP President Amit Shah visited Mysuru on a two-day visit and launched the “Karunada Jagruthi Yatra” on Mar. 30. His special flight landed at Mysore Airport on the night of Mar. 29. After a hectic schedule in Mysuru, Shah covered Kollegal, Srirangapatna, Mandya and Channapattana where he chose to fly in a chopper from the Mysore Airport.
Not to be left behind, JD(S) Supremo and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his son and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy visited the region and their chartered choppers too landed at Mysore Airport. Moreover, even Chief Minister Siddharamaiah used the airport at least five to six times for his chopper to land from Bengaluru and other places for him to visit Mysuru region and campaign.
Officials at the Airport told Star of Mysore that apart from political leaders visiting the city and using the airport, a couple of business leaders too visited Mysuru and their choppers landed at the airport.
Leaders Prefer Airport To Land
Speaking to SOM this morning, Shivakumar, Inspector of Airport Security, said that political leaders prefer the Mandakalli Airport as there is already a set security mechanism. If they want to land at Lalitha Mahal Helipad, special security has to be arranged. Moreover, the travel between Mandakalli Airport and Mysuru city is smoother as vehicles can move on the widened Nanjangud Highway instead of moving on the Lalitha Mahal Road that has heavy traffic and road dividers, he said.
If a VIP lands at the Mandakalli Airport, aspects like security, smooth landing and monitoring are taken care of. The airport compound too provides additional security.
“Perhaps in the history of the Mysore Airport, it is for the first time such heavy air traffic is witnessed and the airport has become a beehive of activity,” Shivakumar added.
The airport will also be a hub of activity after this election as in a few months, 2019 Parliamentary elections are due and the VVIP visits will be more as it is the battle for the Delhi crown. Realising the growing importance and the major role played by the Mysore Airport, the Airport Authority Committee has already recommended strengthening the Airport security with two Assistant Commissioner of Police-level officers and the required additional staff for the Airport.
Sources told SOM that earlier, Police officers and security personnel were reluctant to go to the Airport for security duty as except for one regular flight, that too in the night, there was no other activity. “They used to complain of boredom. But now, they are ready to go for Airport duty,” sources added.