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A coffee house with old-world charm and endless political discussions

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: March 26, 2019  | 13:03 IST

By Saloni Bhatia Allahabad, Mar 26 (PTI) In first glance it may not seem like a regular coffee house, but this six-decade-old building with its church-like facade has been attracting scores of people who sit for hours over endless sips of steaming tea or coffee and debate over politics. At a time when election frenzy is gradually building up, the Indian Coffee House is brimming with people discussing the SP-BSP alliance and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's foray into active politics. Located in the upscale Civil Lines, often referred to as the heart of the city, regular patrons describe it as a safe place where one can air their views freely. The guests boast that their favourite haunt sets the tone for political discourse in the city, saying it is a place where even those with opposing views can speak freely. Opened in 1957, the Indian Coffee House has an old-world charm to it, one that stands out in the times of air-conditioned, swish cafes. Old-timers say that even former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and V P Singh came to the iconic place for coffee in an era gone by. This coffee house attracts people from all sections of society, from lawyers and journalists to businessmen. Ashok Yadav, who retired from the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation, said, "Yahan logon mein matbhed ho sakta hai, manbhed nahi (There can be difference of opinion but not a difference in mind)." "The coffee house has, over the years, come to define the political discourse of Allahabad, which is more politically evolved than other cities. Even a rickshaw puller here will have an opinion on the current political scenario," he added. Avdhesh Dwivedi has been coming to the coffee house for the last 45 years. A Congress worker till 1987, he left the party after he felt that it was not raising the issue of corruption. "Earlier, you could have discussions here without getting offended by others' views. But now people get agitated if they find that their views are being opposed," said Dwivedi, but was quick to add that it has not stopped anyone from airing their views. The visitors to the coffee house said that on most of the days, the place is quite noisy, and people sit for hours over endless cups of tea and coffee. P R Panda, the manager of the place, said, "There are impassioned discussions and arguments among people but we have never seen them getting violent. Though there were a few instances where they came close to picking up chairs while trying to make a point." Panda said he did not know much about the history of the place but he has heard that before Amitabh Bachchan attained superstardom, he used to come here on a bicycle. H S Tripathi, who retired from the Allahabad High Court, said that with the general elections around the corner, there are discussions about the SP-BSP alliance and how it could dent the BJP's vote share. "After Priyanka Gandhi Vadra made a formal political debut, many Congress supporters here were enthused, saying it would revive the party's fortunes. BJP supporters here are also vociferous in their praise for Modi who say he has ensured that the city became cleaner and developed infrastructure," he added. He said the Kumbh Mela, which was one of the cleanest the city has seen, is also highlighted as an achievement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Another visitor to the place, however, seemed less enthusiastic about the political culture of the coffee house. "This is a place for those who are aspiring to be politicians. People who are in the opposition usually come here and criticise those in power," the guest said. PTI SLB AAR SMN SMN

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