Vada pav is a thing of the past; parties desperate to woo their electorate are now throwing lavish banquets featuring biryani, the demand for which has experienced an unprecedented rise in the pre-poll rush

Times have changed, tastes have changed. And desperate for votes in their favour in the BMC polls this Thursday, political parties are only too glad to cater to the demands of refined tastes of workers and supporters. If the biryani makers are to be believed, political parties in the city, who are now at
the mercy of voters, are pulling out all the stops to woo them, and the smell of biryani hanging heavy in the pre-election air seems to be doing the trick.

Served on a platter: Biryani makers in the city have their hands and
vessels full, trying to serve up all the orders for the delicacy that are
flooding in from the offices of different political parties by the hour

Realising that the easiest way to a voter's heart is through the stomach, parties are throwing lavish banquets, replete with appetizers, biryani and free-flowing alcohol. As a result, biryani makers in the city have their hands and vessels full, trying to serve up all the orders for the delicacy that are flooding in from the offices of different political parties by the hour.

And even as they cook and churn, their coffers seem to be filling up.

"This is the first time we have experienced such a sudden rise in demand for biryani. It is our ancestral business, and so many orders on a daily basis is unprecedented. All day long, we are busy preparing large orders of chicken and mutton biryani that parties are ordering to feed their supporters. Each order is for 300-400 people, which we make using 45 kg portions of chicken and rice each," said Ganesh Nakhate, president of the Kurla Mutton Dealers' Association.

Nakhate grumbled that mutton and chicken prices have also soared by 5 to 10 per cent, with meat dealers making the most of the sudden spurt in demand fuelled by the election.

While mutton was earlier available at the rate of Rs 240 a kg, it is now being sold for Rs 290. Chicken that was available for Rs 90 a kilo is now available for Rs 120. "Chicken and mutton prices have soared in the last two days. Everybody wants to make some money," added Nakhate.

"Earlier, parties used to please their supporters with a plate of vada pav. But nowadays, nothing short of a lavish biryani meal, accompanied by appetizers and drinks will appease them. The changing lifestyle of our leaders and workers has made pre-poll expenditures shoot up drastically. We have never seen parties spending so much only on food, especially for the BMC election. Even during elections to the legislative assembly,
we have never seen such extravagant expenses," said Gulam Ali Sheikh, owner, A1 Caterer of the Bandra Kurla Complex.

"The quantity of orders pouring in is directly proportional to the prominence of the political faction making the order, and ranges from orders for 100-400 people. Also, they seek a greater variety in appetizers and food. I have rustled up biryani for at least 3,500 supporters in last few days," Sheikh added.

The sudden escalation in demand also means that the establishments -- both large and small -- are reeling from a sudden and unanticipated manpower shortage.

"We only take orders from those who promise to pay on delivery. We request that orders be placed well in advance, so the clientele can be served hot and tasty food. Most parties throw lavish banquets at dinnertime, hence we have enough time to meet the requirements," he said.

While caterers are making hay, er, biryani while the sun shines, restaurant owners are disgruntled at losing out to the catering community.

"We had anticipated some brisk business in the fortnight leading to the elections, but unfortunately, most parties preferred to hire private caterers, to cut costs. Unfortunately, the restaurant business has not made much from the pre-poll rush this season," said Sudhakar Shetty, president of the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association.