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Cong to make a strong bid to regain support of tea tribe voters

By PRANJAL BHUYAN
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GUWAHATI, Sept 25 - With only six to seven months left for the next Assembly polls, principal opposition Congress party has chalked out a strategy to try and regain support of the tea community which plays a decisive role in a large number of constituencies.

As part of it, the Congress party is likely to field more candidates from the community in 2021 compared to previous elections, while also nominating �new faces� in the �tea belt�. The party will also make the demand for formation of an autonomous council for the tea community a major poll plank.

�The tea tribes play a decisive role in 23 constituencies of upper Assam, three seats of lower Assam and around six seats of Barak Valley. Over the decades, our party was the dominant force in the garden areas and among the voters belonging to the tea tribes, and the tea belt always played a major role in facilitating government formation by the Congress in Assam. However, the BJP made major inroads among the community during the 2016 Assembly elections. For example, we could win only four seats in the tea belt of upper Assam that year,� Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) vice president Bhagirath Karan told this newspaper.

He said that the Congress allotted tickets to 15-16 candidates from the tea community in 2016. �This time we are looking to field at least 20 nominees from the tea tribes. Our candidates will be a mix of veterans and new faces. We are keen to promote young and new faces in some of the constituencies dominated by the tea tribes,� said Karan.

He added that the Congress has carried out a �detailed analysis� regarding factors which led to the erosion of its base among the tea community.

�We found that, firstly, there was anti-incumbency against our government. Secondly, we suffered from dissidence; and voters, including those from the tea community, assumed that we would not be able to provide a viable leadership. Mistakes were made in selection of candidates in the tea belt. We failed to promote new faces and a young generation of leaders from the tea tribes. Our government failed to fulfil long-pending demands of the community, including on granting Schedule Tribe (ST) status and land pattas,� said Karan, who is a former president of APCC�s Tea Cell.

�We have now started working on regaining our base in the tea belt by highlighting some basic issues affecting the community. Our focus will be on granting ST status to the tea community. If we come to power in 2021, we will put pressure on the garden owners to implement wage hike for workers through negotiations,� Karan said.

He added that the party is also determined to fight for creation of an autonomous council for the tea community, on the line of similar bodies which have been formed for the Moran, Muttock and Koch Rajbangshi communities.

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Cong to make a strong bid to regain support of tea tribe voters

GUWAHATI, Sept 25 - With only six to seven months left for the next Assembly polls, principal opposition Congress party has chalked out a strategy to try and regain support of the tea community which plays a decisive role in a large number of constituencies.

As part of it, the Congress party is likely to field more candidates from the community in 2021 compared to previous elections, while also nominating �new faces� in the �tea belt�. The party will also make the demand for formation of an autonomous council for the tea community a major poll plank.

�The tea tribes play a decisive role in 23 constituencies of upper Assam, three seats of lower Assam and around six seats of Barak Valley. Over the decades, our party was the dominant force in the garden areas and among the voters belonging to the tea tribes, and the tea belt always played a major role in facilitating government formation by the Congress in Assam. However, the BJP made major inroads among the community during the 2016 Assembly elections. For example, we could win only four seats in the tea belt of upper Assam that year,� Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) vice president Bhagirath Karan told this newspaper.

He said that the Congress allotted tickets to 15-16 candidates from the tea community in 2016. �This time we are looking to field at least 20 nominees from the tea tribes. Our candidates will be a mix of veterans and new faces. We are keen to promote young and new faces in some of the constituencies dominated by the tea tribes,� said Karan.

He added that the Congress has carried out a �detailed analysis� regarding factors which led to the erosion of its base among the tea community.

�We found that, firstly, there was anti-incumbency against our government. Secondly, we suffered from dissidence; and voters, including those from the tea community, assumed that we would not be able to provide a viable leadership. Mistakes were made in selection of candidates in the tea belt. We failed to promote new faces and a young generation of leaders from the tea tribes. Our government failed to fulfil long-pending demands of the community, including on granting Schedule Tribe (ST) status and land pattas,� said Karan, who is a former president of APCC�s Tea Cell.

�We have now started working on regaining our base in the tea belt by highlighting some basic issues affecting the community. Our focus will be on granting ST status to the tea community. If we come to power in 2021, we will put pressure on the garden owners to implement wage hike for workers through negotiations,� Karan said.

He added that the party is also determined to fight for creation of an autonomous council for the tea community, on the line of similar bodies which have been formed for the Moran, Muttock and Koch Rajbangshi communities.

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