GUWAHATI, May 18 � Apart from the resounding victory that the saffron party scripted in Assam in the Lok Sabha poll 2014, the general election highlighted some major shifts in the voting pattern, that also included the BJP inroads into some of the strongest Congress bastions in the State.
This poll saw the tables turning in favour of the BJP in the traditional Congress strongholds � in the more than 800 tea gardens in the State. It can be said that since Independence the tea garden workers have been loyally exercising their franchise in favour of the Congress, but this time the wind of change swept across the tea community-dominated Lok Sabha constituencies including Dibrugarh, Jorhat and Tezpur. From all these constituencies, BJP candidates emerged winners, defeating their nearest Congress rivals.
Rameshwar Teli of BJP who registered his win against Congress candidate Pawan Singh Ghatowar, a five-time MP from the Dibrugarh Lok Sabha constituency, said that the development agenda of the saffron party won over the tea garden workers this time.
�The Congress has always been exercising its dominance over the tea belt through money and muscle power. The condition in the tea gardens across the State is very pathetic. Development is yet to touch the lives of the tea workers,� said Teli, who was in Guwahati.
The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangh, which is affiliated to the Congress, and enjoys a virtual monopoly over lakhs of tea garden workers, could not influence the voters this time. The Modi magic and the Gujarat development model wooed the voters in the tea belt towards the saffron party.
�Many youths from the tea belt work in Gujarat. These youths played a major role in this general election by motivating their families and neighbours to vote for change,� said Teli, who got 55 per cent of the total 3.6 lakh tea garden votes in Dibrugarh.
On the other hand, State BJP sources said that the party had been focusing on strengthening its organisational base in the tea belt and the effort paid off. The sources further said that the party is committed towards improving the condition of the tea workers, who have been deprived and exploited.
It needs to be mentioned here that the BJP in its election manifesto had promised to solve the issue of low wages to the tea garden workers.
The living condition of tea garden labourers across the State is the same � it is the story of deprivation and insecurity, lack of sanitation and drinking water facilities, absence of proper medical care, prevalence of child labour and blatant violation of the Plantation Labour Act of 1951, which is meant to provide for welfare of the tea labourers, and to regulate conditions of work.