Story by: Bhargav TS

India is in the election mode. Politicians, big and small, are campaigning all over the country to bag a seat in the parliament of what is often described as the most populous democracy in the world. Supporting their campaigns are customised CVs. These are buses, vans, and pickups. Found in various sizes and types to suit the gruelling, high decibel campaign the politicians run, often reaching each and every doorstep in the constituency, customised CVs are estimated to be an Rs.300 crore industry. Comprising of converters and bodybuilders, it is largely unorganised. Capable of being structured into a pyramid, there are six players at the top. Their customising experience would amount to anywhere between Rupees-five lakhs to Rupees-five crore. While simple modifications take a fortnight, complete re-modelling takes up to two months. The end result is a rolling juggernaut, replete with an office-cum-home environment inside, and a campaign van environment outside. With politicians worth their salt preferring to employ CVs as sophisticated as a Mercedes-Benz light CV or a Volvo luxury coach to something as mundane as a Mahindra Bolero Pickup, the business of customised CVs is a bit of a grey area for certain.  

Often described as election campaign vehicles, mobile homes or caravans, customised CVs, as per their functionality and use, are designed to woo voters. They are built at various customisation workshops across the country. The most prominent workshops are at Chennai, Coimbatore, Bangalore, Delhi, and Mumbai. An intensive activity, the process would involve the purchase of a suitable chassis to start with. Expressed a party spokesperson, “We send the vehicle for customisation a few months ago.” Depending on the requirement of the party and the politician who will use it, the customisation firms suggest designs and solutions. The criteria often are, that the vehicle should be like home since the campaign will take more than a month. The schedule often is very hectic, and 24×7 in nature. Amenities include one or more beds to rest, attached bathroom, LED lights, a sunroof facility with steps so that the leader can climb up and address people. Numerous other functions and features follow as the level of customisation is decided.

Built by bodybuilders like JCBL, Paracoat Products (PCP), DC Design and Prakash Body Construction Company, campaign vans have to be safe and comfortable. They have to be highly mobile and reliable in an environment that is not often the most accommodating. Mentioned a converter from Hyderabad that it makes for an interesting project to build comfortable homes on wheels for political stalwarts such that they can eat, relax and work. Such homes of wheels are often the places where campaigns are fine-tuned, sentiments analysed and necessary changes activated. A home away from home for a candidate as he or she winds up the election campaign for the day customised CVs flaunt technology and amenities to match his or her outlook

  

Of the opinion that demand for customised CVs has doubled over the last few years in proportion to the increase in the number of  leaders, campaigners, and celebrities, R Harikrishna averred, “The last few months have been hectic.” Stating that each party is looking at no less than six campaign vans unlike the earlier trend when one or two such vehicles were enough, R Harikrishna said, “MLAs and MPs have started placing orders on their own.”

Building a vehicle for Rahul Gandhi, DC Design, according to Chhabria, has come to understand the needs of the politicians. Surface vehicles, he added, is helping leaders to connect with more people than a helicopter. “One of the important factors customers look for is dependability, followed by design,” he opined.      

The modus operandi involving the building of a customised CV for the election campaign is to present 10-15 designs. This includes the plan layouts among other bits. Once the design is approved by the client, work starts in earnest. High-end wooden furniture, comfortable sofa-cum-beds, toilets (used in aircraft), home theatres, lift with revolving seats, DVR, and a massage chair are reflective of the comfort levels demanded by a certain politician. Of much importance are the hydraulic platforms, LED lights, loudspeakers (which can take the leaders’ voice up to 1.6 km), and communication and entertainment systems. These make for a perfect political recipe. Added features include mine-proofing and bullet-proofing among others.

                                    

A part of building the campaign vans involves safety. Politicians often demand the ability to bulletproof the vehicle. To armour it. Revealed Chhabria they do not alter the characteristics of the original vehicle, which has gone through its own safety homologation. “The challenge is to make sure that they do not exceed the original target weight except when it is armoured,” he added. As per the regulation, one cannot structurally modify the vehicle, so refurbishment does not include altering the length, breadth or the height of the vehicle.

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