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Flutter over Modi copter

Siliguri, April 9: The Bengal BJP today accused the state administration of informing it “at the last moment” that Narendra Modi’s chopper could not land on the makeshift helipad near his rally venue in Siliguri tomorrow because the soil was soft.

The PWD said tonight that it was trying to ready another helipad on firmer land near the rally venue in Matigara.

A state BJP leader said the party’s prime ministerial candidate could be driven to the rally venue in a car from Bagdogra airport, a distance of 15km that takes around 20 minutes to cover.

The PWD had been building the helipad for the past five days based on the BJP’s intimation that a chopper with a carrying capacity of five persons would land there, sources in the party and the administration said.

Rathindra Bose, the Darjeeling BJP president, said the plan was changed and it was decided that a 20-seater chopper would bring Modi to the venue. Late tonight, Bose said Modi would come in a chopper but did not specify where he would land and what kind of helicopter would be used.

State BJP president Rahul Sinha accused the state government of “deliberate non- co-operation”. Modi is scheduled to land at Bagdogra airport at 10am tomorrow.

After inspecting the rally venue — Panchkelguri Math — this evening, Siliguri police commissioner Jag Mohan and PWD engineers told BJP leaders that a 20-tonne helicopter could not land on the makeshift helipad as the soil was soft. They feared that the wheels could sink into the soil.

“At the last moment, they told us that the ground did not have enough load-bearing capacity and that’s why they wanted Modiji to come via road from Bagdogra,” BJP state president Sinha said tonight.

Sinha and Sidharth Nath Singh, the BJP’s national spokesperson and Bengal in-charge, protested when they were told about the soft helipad and requested the administration to construct another near the venue.

The PWD engineers told the BJP leaders that it would not be possible to construct a helipad at such a short notice.

Jag Mohan told this newspaper that the organisers informed the administration today that a 20-seater chopper would land at the meeting venue. “It weighs around 20 tonnes. PWD engineers objected to it, saying the ground was not firm enough.”

Santosh Tamang, the assistant engineer of PWD (Siliguri construction division-II), said: “The makeshift helipad has been built on soft paddy land. We are trying to build another helipad on firm land nearby by tomorrow morning, if possible.”