The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal menu before N-niggle

Bhopal, Sept. 10: Food first, that too to tickle Atalji’s taste buds.

Not nuclear niggles, not snap polls, not leadership issues — what is occupying BJP mindspace ahead of its September 21-23 national executive is the platter for Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his band of 210 boys.

An all-vegetarian menu has been selected, keeping in mind Vajpayee’s preferences. The former Prime Minister hails from Gwalior and is a great foodie, with refined interest in food.

Led by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and state unit chief Narendra Singh Tomar, the “organising committee” has finalised an assortment of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Chauhan has assigned the task of scouting for the best cooks to state PWD minister Kailash Vijayvarigya, who is from Indore. They will have to rustle up bhutte ke kiss (a grated corn delicacy), dal baffle (baked baffle or batis are made of coarse wheat flour, which are crumbled or dipped in dal) karhi pulao, moong ka halwa, neebu ki shikanji, poha-jalebi and a dozen other dishes.

Indore prides itself on its vegetarian food. Its Sarafa and Rajwada areas are famous for street food like moong bhajiya with fried chillies, saboodana khichdi and matka ice-cream, made of pure milk.

Local BJP leaders said each time Vajpayee visited Indore, he would make it a point to visit Sarafa and Rajwada and gorge on these items. He would also try Nagori ki shikanji, Rajwada ke pohe, Vijay Chat House ke pettis, Chhappan ki aalu tikki, RamBaag ki aalu ki kachori, Laxminarayan ka doodh, Mathurawale ki mithaai and other dishes.

Vajpayee’s love for food is legendary in BJP circles. Old-timers recall how at an official programme he once spent considerable time at food counters. His attendant shuffled in discomfort, wondering how to remind him of diet restrictions till he saw Madhuri Dixit.

The actress was introduced to the elderly statesman, who is a movie buff, too. Apparently, Vajpayee got so engrossed in conversation with the “dhak dhak girl” that the food counter was discreetly cleared.

Tentatively, the BJP organising committee has decided to serve milk, jalebi, poha, mithi-sithi (mix of sweets and namkeen), dahi-paratha and butter-toast for breakfast on the opening day.

Lunch will consist of chaach (buttermilk), dahi vada, dal, karhi, aloo matar, paneer vegetables, sald-papad, achar, roti and ice-cream. Dinner will be hosted by Chauhan at his official residence.

Day II will have moong ka halwa, idli, vada, sambhar and butter-toast for breakfast. The menu for lunch includes neebu ki shikanji, paneer, dahi-pakora, kakri, rayta, dal-chawal, aloo bhindi ki sabzi, missi roti, papad, ice-cream and other supplements.

For dinner, bhutte ka kiss, dal-bati, baffle, karhi-pulao, makke ki roti, Shimla mirch ki sabzi and other supplements will be served.

On September 23, breakfast will be a mix of southern and western Indian cuisine, including uttappam, upma, dhokla and mitha-sitha.

A “working lunch” of puri-sabzi and halwa will be on offer as most delegates and leaders would be leaving Bhopal by early afternoon.

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