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Congress tea party set to end

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

india Updated: Mar 29, 2006 03:28 IST

The BJP is all set to spoil the Congress tea party in Assam. The tea workers, a sizeable vote bank in the state, are dancing to the 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. It has consolidated its bases 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 local tribal youth.

Prominent among the young tribal leaders is Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, a former general secretary of ATTSA. He is now the BJP’s tea cell chief and a moving force behind the party’s soaring popularity. Tea tribals number about 55 lakh and they are the deciding factor for candidates in 38 constituencies.

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 at the behest of the state government. But the wage hike was far short of the tea garden labourers’ demand. The BJP is also cashing in on Congress infighting in the region.