Elections mean windfall for dhabas in Orissa
"Elections are a good opportunity. We feel good too because we can see many politicians in flesh and blood," says a dhaba owner.
Political rallies in Orissa in the run up to the assembly and parliamentary elections have meant a windfall for roadside eateries.
"Hundreds of people converge for rallies from villages and towns. Many of them do not like the vegetarian fare they are handed out by organisers, so they visit my eatery," said Subal Sahu, owner of a dhaba located on the road connecting Jharsuguda district to its headquarters of Sundergarh.
The usual clientele of such dhabas are largely long haul truck drivers. In fact, the best way to identify a good dhaba is by the number of vehicles parked near it.
"Earlier we were catering mostly to truck drivers, but soon after the announcement of elections, our clientele are mostly political activists," Sahu said.
Dhabas are mostly found along the highways, serving basic fare such as vegetables, chicken and mutton curry, dal, rice and chapatti or paranthas at reasonable prices.
"I had five employees before polls were declared, but now the rush of political activists and leaders have made me hire five more waiters and two extra cooks," said the owner of another dhaba.
"Earlier I was earning up to Rs 4,000 a day, now it is about Rs 6,000, and if there is a rally by a big political party in any of the nearby villages, it goes up to Rs 10,000," he said, refusing to disclose his identity as he did not want police and tax officials to find out about his income.
Political activists gearing up for elections to the 21 Lok Sabha and 147 assembly seats from the state mostly eat at odd hours.
"Dhabas are open round the clock. Since we often return from campaigning late in the night, these eateries are ideal for us," said Monoranjan Mohanty, a supporter of the ruling Biju Janata Dal.
"Even prominent leaders, including ministers, have food with us in dhabas," he added.
"Elections are a good business opportunity. We feel good too, because we can see many politicians in flesh and blood, who we can otherwise only watch on TV," said another dhaba owner.
"At least a dozen state ministers and TV reporters have visited my dhaba in the past one week and I was delighted to serve them," he added with pride.