The Gannavaram airport bustled with activity as politicians and VIPs increasingly used it as a base for flying to and from Hyderabad during the elections. The leaders had to make Vijayawada as their stopover on the way to campaign meetings in these parts of the State.
Cutting across the party lines, prominent leaders and VIPs landed at the airport in private aircraft or helicopters for road shows in districts. They chose to fly to Gannavaram to avoid the trouble caused by traffic snarls which are common on Vijayawada highway.
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Union Ministers Chiranjeevi and Jairam Ramesh, APCC president N. Raghuveera Reddy, TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu and YSR Congress president Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy were among those who used the airport for reaching out to the masses, say officials.
After landing at the airport, these leaders drove to the constituencies in SUVs for participating in road shows. The UPA chairperson directly landed at Gannavaram in a special flight from New Delhi and flew in a helicopter to Guntur where she addressed a public meeting.
Some other national leaders flew to Gannavaram to meet local leaders in the run-up to finalising the candidates for Assembly as well as Parliamentary constituencies.
Apart from politicians, top industrialists came to this airport in private aircraft.
Airport Director B.G. Patil says the airport would usually register 120 flight movements every month whereas after the election campaign began the number went up to four every day. “We charged Rs. 4000 towards landing charges from those who utilised the airport. It’s really encouraging that the arrivals and departures are increasing gradually,” he says.
Mr. Patil explains necessary precautionary measures were taken to ensure security to national and state leaders during their arrival. In coordination with the district police, security was tightened whenever a popular leader came here. Sleuths from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) had visited to take stock of the situation before the arrival of prominent leaders from New Delhi.
“We have banned the entry of visitors during the arrival of important leaders,” he says.