Plate Tectonics

Great Maratha War: Vada Pav vs Kanda Pohe

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Vada Pav, the Maharashtrian’s veg burger, is a sliced square bread that holds in its gaping jaws turmeric-yellow mashed potatoes. Everybody in Mumbai, except Simi Garewal, must have had it at least once. As a boy, Sachin Tendulkar used to have several in a day. It is the most commonly available street food and its status as the common man’s meal was undisputed. However, after the Shiv Sena appropriated it and started demanding special privileges for vada pav sellers, Congressmen in Maharashtra started finding flaws in it. They say that potato is a North Indian import while bread (pav) is a Goan influence. According to the Congress, only kanda pohe (a puffed rice snack) can claim to be truly Maharashtrian as the state is one of the biggest producers of onions (kanda) and puffed rice was always a local snack.

The Shiv Sena-led Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has given contracts for 125 Shiv Vada Pav Stalls to Sainiks. No permission has been granted for kanda pohe stalls. The Sena, which is opposed to MNCs, has entered into a ‘strategic agreement’ with McDonald’s to set up the stalls. On 1 May, which is Maharashtra Day, Shiv Sena Executive President Uddhav Thackeray will launch the stalls.
Congressmen have met BMC commissioner Jairaj Pathak and demanded permission for kanda pohe stalls. “Provision must be made for kanda pohe stalls, too, as it is the original food of Maharashtra,” says Kripashankar Singh, president of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee.
The Nationalist Congress Party, too, is trying to jump in. It opposes the name ‘Shiv Vada Pav’ as it believes that will hurt Marathi sentiments. “It is Chhatrapati Shivaji’s name. How can they give it for a vada pav stall,” says a senior NCP leader.