Co-pilot Rajiv Rudy reporting for duty

As the BJP tries to find its feet in opposition, one party leader has found a way to stay above it all. He may be taking a break for the Parliament session, but on most other days, BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy can be heard from a new platform: the cockpit of an IndiGo Airbus A320.

The former civil aviation minister has been working in the low-cost carrier as a junior co-pilot since January. So these days, press conferences on the Maoist attack and sound bites on Tharoor and IPL are preceded by long radio telephony from Airbus A 320 to the ATC and some dedicated reading of the flight crew operating manual.

"The Airbus A 320 is one of the most fabulous machines invented by man," says Rudy, in his white-and-blue uniform, after a long Delhi-Kolkata-Agartala-Kolkata-Delhi haul last Tuesday. From the BJP headquarters in Delhi, to the politically sanitised flight deck, the 48-year-old seems to be enjoying the flight while it lasts. "The political process is already a part of me, but I needed to do something else, something new," he says.

The BJP's long sabbatical from power has contributed. "Had I been active in government, possibly I couldn't have been doing this," he nods, carefully choosing his words.

Flying is an old passion that began in the late 1970s during Rudy's days as an NCC cadet in the Government College, Chandigarh, and almost died prematurely when the nearby Patiala Flying Club closed down after an air crash. In 1990, as an MLA, Rudy says he asked then Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad to allow him to fly at the Patna Flying Club, "but he refused permission".

After losing to Lalu in the 2004 elections, Rudy, now a Rajya Sabha MP, went back to the flying club in 2006, trained on a Cessna 172 R and returned in 2008 with a commercial pilot's licence (No. 5682). "But I wanted to fly something big, like an Airbus," says Rudy, who with the blessings of the BJP top brass, including L K Advani and Rajnath Singh, flew to the SimCenter in Miami, Florida, in November 2009 for training on A 320 simulators.

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