What separates a political rally from any other crowd? Some signs are obvious — party flags all around, the ubiquitous white vans from which candidates address the people and supporters raising slogans at the top of their voice.
But in Tamil Nadu, there is just one more giveaway: The aroma of biryani.
With the poll season in full swing in the southern state, biryani, mostly of chicken and mutton, has become a common sight in a majority of local political meets and election rallies. Packets of 1 kg and 500 gm of the delicacy are distributed among the crowds with promises and implorations to vote for a particular party.
“For 1,000 kg of biryani, we can get anywhere from Rs 80,000 for chicken to Rs 1 lakh for mutton,” says Qasim, a caterer.
But why has biryani become so popular when a food staple like yoghurt rice would make more sense in the blazing heat? Well, a lot of it boils down to the taste.
“No one is going to come outside to listen to you if you just give them curd-rice,” grins Karthik S, the 45-year-old manager of SS Biryani in Valluvar Kottam High Road.
“It’s also far easier to eat,” Karthik says, adding, “For example, how can you mix sambar and pickle while standing under the sun?”
Hafeez, owner of Habib Biryani, says. “It is cheap and easy to distribute.”
Some caterers, however, have decided that dealing with politicians isn’t worth the hassle. “They always start dilly-dallying when it comes to paying,” says Anil, who has been running Khaled Biryani in Valluvar Kottam for more than a decade. “CPI, CPI (M), DMK — it doesn’t matter, they never pay up in time,” he rues.
“The worst part is that a local party worker will place the order, but when it comes to payment they will say, ‘ask Jayalalithaa for it’!” he laughs.