Canteen regulars go hungry as T-flame douses kitchen fire
By Anand Kumar | ENS - NEW DELHI
Published: 06th Oct 2013 08:05:04 AM
The echoes of the battle over Seemandhra and Telangana has reached Delhi. At its epicentre are two landmarks—Hyderabad House where the Indian government throws lavish dinners for visiting dignitaries and its humbler cousin of cuisine, Andhra Bhavan which hosts the cafeteria that first introduced delicious Andhra food to Delhi foodies. Following Napoleon’s saying that ‘an army marches on its stomach’, pro and anti Telangana protestors who once thronged the capital had a common fill-in-station at Andhra Bhavan, standing barely 200 metres from Parliament. Since the last three months, its famous canteen has turned into a battleground without declaring it allegiance to either Telangana or Seemandhra. After the Telangana approval came through earlier this week, the question looming large over the identity of the Bhavan is—Who does it belong to? Telangana or Seemandhra? The cabinet note on bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh is silent on the status of the Bhavan. Even Bhavan employees are divided on regional lines. They took out rallies in support of their country cousins. “Dharnas and candlelight rallies in front of AP Bhavan have become a regular affair with people from both regions,” said Kiran Kumar, Special Officer at the Bhavan.
Most employees are from Seemandhra. With the fight over what cuisine would be served over, a new battle is now brewing.
The Bhavan has been the birthpace of many historic events like the confabulations that led to the formation of the National Front government in 1989 and the United Front government in 1996.
In 1987, the Bhavan hosted a conclave of non-Congress Chief Ministers to revive anti-Congress forces. Emerging from the meeting, West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu was asked for details. “The food was very good,” he replied. It was NT Rama Rao, former CM and founder of Telugu Desam Party (TDP), who opened AP Bhavan canteen for the public in 1984. Though AP Bhavan, like Hyderabad House was the property of the erstwhile Nizam, the canteen mostly serves Andhra food. Biryani is served on Sundays.
AP Bhavan has many similarities with Hyderabad. Seemandhra leaders claim they developed AP Bhavan as an important centre in the capital like they did Hyderabad. Hyderabad House was with Telangana since 1947. Andhra Bhavan is also built on land that once belonged to the Nizam. In 1956, Telengana merged with Andhra to form Andhra Pradesh. Though Hyderabad House was taken over by the Centre in 1948, the AP government received funds every year to compensate for the loss of Nizam’s erstwhile palace. Telangana now claims that the Bhavan naturally belongs to it. Meanwhile, the habitual Delhi patrons of the cafetaria have been banned from eating there.
“You can pack your food,” says the genial manager. Until the issue is settled, the pot will continue to boil.