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Vada pav drive, with ‘outsider’

Mumbai, May 6: Uddhav Thackeray plans to fight cousin Raj using the humble vada pav, with a little help from north Indians.

On Sunday, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray announced his party would form a union of vada pav vendors, 90 per cent of whom are Maharashtrians.

Uddhav’s announcement came a day after Raj reasserted his sons-of-the-soil agenda, accusing migrants from north India for grabbing jobs that he said should go to locals.

Sena leader Anil Desai said: “Vada pav stalls have provided employment to thousands and the Shiv Sena has always encouraged the vendors to stand on their feet. Our party worker Sanjay Gurav approached the party with the idea of forming a union with the aim of bringing hygiene and cleanliness through a chain of eateries.”

A company that already sells the spicy street food will help the vendors market the snack through franchisees. This would mean an organised business and cleaner pavs, which the Mumbaikar will get from trained staff.

The Sena has been in talks with Dheeraj and Reeta Gupta, who own Jumbo King Foods that sells vada pav through a chain like the McDonald’s, to provide its expertise to the vendors.

The lip-smacking snack of bread and potato patty, topped with garlic chutney and chillies, comes for Rs 5 now and could cost Rs 8 at most, when the costliest McDonald’s burger does not come at Rs 50 even.

Gurav said the idea of the union came to him after Saamna executive editor Sanjay Raut threw a vada pav party in the capital.

“The Shiv Sena and vada pav vendors have been part of an equation since the 1960s. So, when Sanjay Raut organised a party where Sharad Pawar and Hema Malini came and munched vada pav, I thought why not form an organisation of the vendors,” he said. Desai, however, made it clear that the Sena does not want to “copy” McDonald’s.

Dheeraj, whose Jumbo King would provide the expertise, said: “I have not met Uddhavji, but we are in touch with some of his associates. We are a franchising company with 45 outlets…. We will provide branding and training as part of the package.”

That Dheeraj is a non-Maharashtrian selling a snack almost synonymous with Mumbai does not seem to have upset the Sena.

Asked if he was bothered by it, Dheeraj laughed. “As an entrepreneur, my purpose is to create wealth. I would not like to comment on this. I am not a Mahatrashtrian, but I am a pucca Mumbaikar.”

Gurav told PTI that the customary “Jai Maharashtra” would greet customers as they get their vada pavs.

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