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BJP gears up to ruin Cong party

The tea workers, a sizeable votebank in the state, are dancing to saffron tune, writes Digambar Patowary.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2006 10:57 IST

The BJP is all set to spoil the Congress tea party in Assam. The tea workers, a sizeable votebank in the state, are dancing to saffron tune.

The Congress had nurtured the community with care, but its failure to carry the process forward over the past few years is costing it dear.

Barring a handful, most of the garden families still live below the poverty line. Their demographic composition is essentially ethnic in nature — mostly migrant tribals from Chhotanagpur.

The BJP, riding on the plank of poor development, has made inroads into the belt. And consolidated base too in the six tea districts of Sibsagar, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Golaghat, Sonitpur and Jorhat. It has brought a clutch of influential student leaders belonging to the Assam Tea Tribe Students’ Association (ATTSA) into its fold. The organisation holds considerable sway among the local tribal youths.

Prominent among the young lot is Kamakhya Prasda Tasa, former general secretary of ATTSA. He is now the BJP’s tea cell chief and the moving force behind the party’s growing popularity. Tea tribals number about 55 lakh in the state and they are the deciding factor for any candidate to clinch the deal in 38 constituencies. The BJP is trying its best to address the community’s list of grievances — something which the Congress failed to do. Topping the chart is higher wages. The tea companies recently inked a remuneration pact with the Assam Chah Mazdoor Santha ( ACMS) at the behest of state government. But the wage hike was paltry, falling far short of the demand. Other demands include better healthcare, housing and granting of ST status to the community.

The BJP is also cashing in on the Congress infighting in the region. The party witnessed bitter wrangling the over choice of candidates after several bigwigs were dropped from the list.

The BJP has hit the campaign trail with a vengeance and has roped in leaders from the tribal-dominated states to address poll rallies.