From bowl to ballot: At Kolkata’s food festivals, the latest flavour is politics

In order to reach out to Hindi-speaking voters, the TMC is using everything from phucka to litti chokha.

 |  2-minute read |   29-09-2018
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If food is the way to a man’s heart, in Kolkata, food festivals are being explored as channels to his vote.

Guess what leaders of the Trinamool Congress are doing these days apart from politics.  They are organising food festivals.

In order to woo voters who are not Bengalis, cuisines from various states are being spread out, so that migrants settled in Kolkata do not grow homesick missing ghar ka khana

First, there was a litti-chokha utsav, based on the famous dish from Bihar. Then came bati-churma of Rajasthan, and now the TMC is organising a phuchka (golgappas) utsav.

Crispy, tangy, and hopefully, vote-wiing. Crispy, tangy, and hopefully, vote-winning. (Photo: India Today)

A part of North Kolkata — Shyampukur, which has a considerable Hindi-speaking population — will soon be treated to crispy phuchkas, courtesy the TMC. Big posters and hoardings have come up, showing CM Mamata Banerjee, her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay and minister Sashi Panja standing around a plate-full of puchhkas and a bowl of tangy tamarind juice.

In all likelihood, none of them will be present at the actual festival, but the pictures are enough to speak a thousand words about the concern the party seemingly has for people in a home away from home.

Fish festivals in Kolkata are common, especially during the season of Hilsa. The party municipal bosses and civic heads organise sumptuous lunch spreads for residents. “Hilsa is a very costly fish, but such festivals give us a chance to savour the fish to our heart’s content,” said a resident of Manicktala. The local MLA organises fish festivals quite often.

But why a phuchka festival? Unlike the expensive Hilsa, the humble phucka is available and affordable all year round.

Well, the festival may not attract a large crowd, but the TMC is hoping it will attract goodwill for the party. The message the party is trying to serve is that Hindi-speaking people feature prominently in its platters and plans.    

With BJP aggressively trying to make inroads in Bengal, Mamata understands the importance of evry vote-bank. With BJP aggressively trying to make inroads in Bengal, Mamata understands the importance of every vote-bank. (Photo: PTI/file)

Every year in Kolkata, there are goodies galore for Ramdaan namaazis and Christmas revelers. Now, the TMC is taking the same route for Hindi-speaking voters.

With the BJP expanding its base in Bengal with its Hindutva push, the Trinamool Congress realises the importance of all vote banks. Recently, Mamata Banerjee dropped in at the state’s Maharshtra Niwas on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi. Though her party leaders had gone over the top to celebrate Ganeshotsav, Mamata personally visiting Maharshtra Niwas obviously had a different significance, while giving her an opportunity to mingle with the Maharashtrians in the city. Banerjee also makes sure to worship the Ganges on the occasion of Chhath.

As elections come closer, both parties will try newer ways to woo voters. At least, the food festival route is palatable.

Also read: BJP's Bengal Bandh was bound to be insignificant. Here's why


Romita Datta Romita Datta

The writer is Associate Editor, India Today.

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