The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Wheels that set road to power on fire
- Tata Safari and Scorpio finish hot favourites in the campaign-carrier race

New Delhi, May 9: The heat and dust raised by the elections has settled. And the winner is: the sports utility vehicle (SUV).

Politicians have crisscrossed the country during the past four weeks of hectic electioneering. The privileged few zipped around in helicopters but most chose the SUV, with the Tata Safari and Mahindra & Mahindra’s Scorpio emerging as the most preferred mode of transport.

The Scorpio made its debut in these elections, having been launched less than two years ago. But the way it has stood up to the rigours of the election campaign suggests the four-by-four diesel-powered SUV is here to stay. It had several things going for it: the roominess at the rear, the powerful air-conditioning and a mileage of around 12 km per litre.

The Scorpio won the vote of Rahul Gandhi, even if he used a Toyota Qualis on occasion, as also actors-turned-politicians Vinod Khanna, Dharmendra and Smriti Irani. Congress candidate Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sarabjot Singh Khalsa also plumped for this SUV.

Equally popular was the Tata Safari which had proved its credentials the last time round. The Safari’s backers ranged from Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka to Uma Bharti and Omar Abdullah. The latter had a souped-up version specially designed for him by Dilip Chhabria’s DC Design. Kalyan Singh, Sachin Pilot, Digvijay Singh and Bhupen Hazarika also voted for the Safari.

The Toyota Qualis — the other locally-made SUV — appeared to have lost out somewhat to the Safari and the Scorpio.

Even so, Rahul, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, Mayavati and Somnath Chatterjee rely on this vehicle.

Bitter Tamil Nadu rivals Jayalalithaa and M. Karunanidhi, who are at loggerheads over everything, agree on the choice of vehicle with both plumping for the sturdy Tempo Traveller.

The once-trustworthy Ambassador — which used to be the ubiquitous car in past elections — has fallen from grace and found very few takers this time round. L.K. Advani and his cabinet colleague Murli Manohar Joshi still use it, even if the deputy Prime Minister also travels by a Swaraj Mazda.

Firebrand Mamata Banerjee is the only politician to use the popular city runabout — the Maruti 800 — which is now the largest-selling car in the country.

However, there are some who travel in style: Amar Singh moves about in a Land Cruiser, Sharad Pawar in a Lexus and Vijay Mallya in his custom-made Mercedes.

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