Hyderabad: Private operators of taxis, jeeps and vans, which are the vehicles mostly used in election campaigning, are hit by the hike in diesel prices. They were hoping to earn well in the ensuing election period, but political parties are not using them as much as they used to because of the high costs of hire.
Though the election season is gaining momentum, with each party slowly releasing its candidate details, the demand for taxis has not increased. Politicians prefer street corner meetings to travelling to the outskirts of the city. The number of taxis booked for campaigning is less than half of what it was in the last election four years ago. Major parties like the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), Congress and Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) have declared some of their candidates names already.
At the time of the 2014 election, the state had 10 districts, and the number of taxis booked was nearly 80,000. In 2018, when the state has 31 districts, the number of taxis booked has not crossed 30,000 yet. Taxi associations say there used to be a rush to pre-book taxis, which is missing this time.
Even politicians who did not think twice before spending lavishly at election time are being cautious when it comes to hiring taxis. The price of diesel is around `81 a litre; during the last general election in 2014, when campaigning was at its peak, the diesel price was around `55 per litre — a difference of around `30 in four years.
Shaik Salauddin of the Four Wheelers’ Association said, “We used to earn a lot of revenue in the election season, as during the time of campaigning, each contesting candidate booked dozens of vehicles depending on the size of the constituency and depending on their budget and brand of car. But this year, the demand for cars has reduced.”
He says the increase in the price of diesel has increased the package cost of each vehicle to `55,000 from `40,000 for a period of 45 days. This is just the rent; maintenance and fuel costs have to be borne by the candidate too. Many party members are using their own vehicles instead of hiring one, as a car has become a common commodity, he says.
Many political leaders have also admitted that local leaders these days prefer to do street corner meetings, where they can address voters in their own locations, without the need to transport people to any other area. Door to door campaigns and bike rallies are also resorted to.
The poor demand for taxis this election season has added salt to the wounds of taxi owners, who are struggling to get their dues from 10 government departments. Mohammad Saiaduddin, a taxi driver based in Nalgonda and president of the local taxi association, says, “We expected that election season would bring us financial relief from the pending bills problem that we have from the state run departments. But that seems to be a distant dream, as the taxi market seems to be dull, and many prefer to use the white number plates instead of hiring the yellow ones. The people who have bought taxis with SC and STs loans have made a loss.”...