Poll fever keeps ’spirits’ high in Bangalore pubs

April 18th, 2009 - 11:35 am ICT by IANS  

By Maitreyee Boruah
Bangalore, April 18 (IANS) Pubs and bars are all packed in the evenings in India’s tech capital. But, unlike other times, the buzz is not about office gossip or business deals. It’s about political parties, candidates and who will win or lose.

“The conversation here these days is all about elections and elections,” IT professional Soumyadeep Chatterjee, 27, told IANS as he waited for his friends at Hard Rock Cafe on Bangalore’s upscale St.Marks Road, a favourite pub among well-heeled youth.

Many regulars at these places want to teach a lesson to the moral police at the hustings, with one rightwing outfit having shockingly attacked women in a Mangalore pub in January.

“A series of attacks on women by the moral police brigade in Bangalore was shameful. I am going to vote against those who have been silent about vulnerable women being attacked for wearing Western outfits,” Piyali Kapoor, 30, a technical writer, said sipping her favourite ale at the Pub World on Residency Road, a popular beer joint for youngsters, within a kilometre of Hard Rock.

Global economic meltdown, terrorism, moral policing and the stand of political parties about these issues dominate the talk among youngsters at their favourite watering holes.

They, however, refuse to outright reveal which party or candidate they will vote for on April 23 when Bangalore’s three constituencies go to polls. The constituencies are Bangalore South, Central and North.

At times the discussions become heated but so far they have not ended in any brawls.

“I am voting for the party which is going to help the country come out of the global financial meltdown. Issues like corruption, terrorism and poverty alleviation are some of the key factors that rank high among urban voters,” Chatterjee said while sipping beer.

Pub owners are happy of course. “Yes, there has been a steady rise in the number of visitors. We’re having some lively discussions over beer mugs,” said Ashok Sadhvani, managing director of The Pub World.

At Tavern on Museum Road, a group of youngsters compare the assets and criminal records of candidates in the three constituencies. Information on this they have downloaded from the election authorities website.

“We want to make an informed choice. We are checking whether the candidates have any criminal records, the work done by them, their assets etc,” said Bhargav Reddy, 28, an entrepreneur.

Bangalore is also known as India’s ‘Pub City’ or ‘Beer Capital’, as its boasts of some of the swankiest and busiest pubs in the country.

There are around 70 big and small upmarket pubs and hundreds of crowded, ill-kept bars, some of which display boards calling themselves “bar and family restaurant”.

The talk among many groups in the pubs invariably touches upon the efforts at moral policing by radical groups in the first three months of the year, starting with the attack on the Mangalore pub by Sri Rama Sene activists.

Mohit Chaddha, 30, a software professional with a major IT bellwether, said: “We live in a civilised society. Acts like attacking women for visiting pubs and wearing Western outfits is akin to the Dark Ages.

“Such acts need to be stopped and our leaders have to ensure the safety of women across Karnataka,” he asserted.

Maya Sinha, 30, a musician, said pubs have always been a great place to meet and talk over serious issues and not just drink and gossip.

“We don’t come just to drink. We love to discuss issues with friends. As this is election season, how can we miss discussing it?” asked Maya.

(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at m.boruah@ians.in)

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