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Campaign flavours: Rallying around food

How the meals offered by political parties at rallies have changed over the years

india Updated: Apr 27, 2019 19:03 IST
Madhusree Ghosh
Madhusree Ghosh
Hindustan Times
elections 2019,general elections,Lok Sabha elections
In Kochi now, chicken or mutton biryani is served at most rallies, and soft drinks have replaced filter coffee.(HT PHOTO)

Graffiti announcing a rally by the Trinamool Congress in January drew quite a bit of criticism because it provided only the date, venue — and menu: Egg curry and rice. There were no slogans, no rallying cry. As jokes began to do the rounds, it turned out that the party had ordered more than 2 lakh eggs to feed its supporters in Kolkata. Food has always been handed out at political events, but what used to be a quick thank-you snack – puri-bhaji or vada pav – has become a far more elaborate spread designed to entice. Party workers say it began to get more elaborate in the mid-1990s, with the introduction of TV news. As the middle classes had also gradually stopped attending rallies, a varied menu became one way to draw in the masses. Here’s a look at what’s on the plate today…

KOLKATA

The Trinamool Congress and Indian National Congress have gone from the traditional roti-sabzi to chicken biryani, or egg curry with rice, and a traditional sweet. The BJP offers similar options, but keeps it strictly vegetarian. In summer, there’s also coconut water or juice. The CPI(M), meanwhile, has kept its menu unchanged since the 1960s. Party comrades’ families get together to make chapatis and sabzi (usually aloo) on the morning of a rally day. It’s what they will eat, and distribute to the crowds.

KOCHI

It’s a very different CPI(M) that rules the roost in Kerala. Earlier Communist party rallies featured parippu (dal) vadas or kappa (tapioca) vadas and filter coffee. Now, chicken or mutton biryani is served at most rallies, and soft drinks have replaced filter coffee. Party workers say biryani is easy to pack and all you need as accompaniment is the pickle. Sometimes, though, the menu is stepped up further, to parottas with chicken curry or egg curry or vegetable stew.

MUMBAI

In Mumbai, the rally crowd was happy with a simple vada pav and chai. Now, if you want to make an impression in the commercial capital, you have to spend more and try harder. Rallies here entice crowds with ‘Indian Chinese’ food, generally fried rice. It’s dry, easy to pack and both veg and chicken options can be managed without mess or too much expense. Biryani is a crowd favourite, says a party worker, but Chinese still wins the day because of the novelty factor.

Vada pav and chai, has been replaced with fried rice and biryani at rallies in Mumbai, ( Rishikesh Choudhary )

LUCKNOW

It’s aloo ki sabzi and puri, across political parties. It’s an old favourite, that hasn’t changed. It’s easy to make, easy to pack.

DELHI

The menu hasn’t changed much over the years. Aloo-puri and sweets; bread pakoda, sweets and chips; chhola kulcha or bhatura are some of the favourites. New arrivals include packed ‘north Indian thali’ boxes, which contain a portion of rice, sabzi, dal, salad and a sweet. These are good crowd-pullers. With polling generally held in peak summer, cold drinks are always on the menu.

In Delhi, chhola kulcha or bhatura are some of the old favourites at rallies. ( Shivam Saxena/Hindustan Times )

With inputs from Naresh Kamath, Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri, Pankaj Jaiswal, Ramesh Babu and Risha Chitlangia

First Published: Apr 27, 2019 19:03 IST