Indian media: Modi's plane problems

Narendra Modi is hoping to become India's next prime minister Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Narendra Modi is hoping to become India's next prime minister

Media in India are highlighting Narendra Modi's accusation that the federal government is trying to disturb his country-wide tour ahead of the elections.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) PM candidate said he was delayed for two of his rallies on Tuesday because his helicopter was not allowed to fly for hours.

The BJP has asked the Election Commission (EC) to investigate the delays in the clearances given to Mr Modi's helicopter flights from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, which it said seemed "deliberate" to affect his campaign schedule, newspapers report.

The Pioneer said Mr Modi was "made to wait for hours at the Delhi airport" which "upset" the schedule of the election rallies he was to attend in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states.

The ruling Congress party has rejected these allegations. But the media appear to be giving prominent coverage to this "war of words over choppers".

Front-page headlines are reporting the BJP's accusations against the government.

"Grounded for hours, Modi cries sabotage," says The Times of India.

The Pioneer's headline says: "Modi wants 'umpire' EC to probe flight delay."

Officials at the civil aviation department said the delays took place because the company in-charge of Mr Modi's travel plans had submitted its flight plan "late".

Mr Modi was the not the only one who had helicopter trouble on Tuesday - Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's election rally in Gumla district in the eastern state of Jharkhand was cancelled due to a technical snag in his helicopter, reports the NDTV website.

Battleground Amethi

Staying with election-related news, papers are also commenting on the upcoming "three-cornered" contest in Amethi in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

The BJP's Smriti Irani, a former TV actress, is set to take on the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, a two-time MP from the constituency which has traditionally been his party's bastion.

The anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) Kumar Vishwas is also contesting from Amethi.

"The battle for Amethi has just got a lot more interesting. Normally a regular boring old Gandhi bastion, with no real opposition to the first family of Congress being fielded by other parties, the constituency this time around has become one of the 'must watch' constituencies, second perhaps only to Varanasi," says the First Post website.

Mr Modi is contesting against AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal from Varanasi in northern India.

The Times of India says "the run-up to 2014 elections is seeing political parties bucking the trend not to pitch strong candidates against seasoned and battle-scarred rivals".

"While the outcome might not be any different this time around in Amethi, BJP's assessment to pit Irani against Rahul is based on the assumption that the anti-incumbency factor will play in its favour in UP (Uttar Pradesh)," it says in an editorial.

Elsewhere, the Election Commission has warned federal minister Sharad Pawar over his controversial remark that people can vote twice in the upcoming polls, reports the India Today website.

The commission expressed its "displeasure" against Mr Pawar, but said no further action would be taken since he had expressed "regret", it adds.

The paper quoted Mr Pawar as saying that his remarks asking his party workers to vote twice in Maharashtra after removing the indelible ink from their fingers were made in "zest".

And finally, Bollywood actor Aamir Khan has been roped in by the commission to encourage people to vote, reports The Times of India.

Khan, who hosted a popular reality show on television which discussed key social issues, has recorded audio and video messages urging people to vote "without fear", the paper says.

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