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Show of tea tribe clout

- Anjan Dutta rallies in support of Handique
Anjan Dutta and Congress leaders at the rally in Amguri on Friday. Telegraph picture

Sivasagar, April 4: A 4,000-strong tea tribe contingent, led by senior Congress leader and local legislator Anjan Dutta, entered Amguri town for a Congress election rally in support of Bijoy Krishna Handique, the Congress candidate for the Jorhat Lok Sabha constituency.

Known for his organisational skills as much for his ability to spring surprises, Dutta exuded confidence and camaraderie as he chatted freely with the tea tribe representatives in the course of the rally.

Dutta openly refuted any possibility of a tea tribe backlash against the Congress.

“The Congress has always been sensitive to concerns of the tea tribes all these years whereas parties like the BJP and the AGP turn up only during election time,” Dutta said, standing on a truck as the rally came to a close.

He mentioned the various welfare schemes undertaken for the tea garden populace and made the customary appeal for their support.

Dutta gestured towards the sky and said, “There is Indira Gandhiji looking at us. Let us remember her. Please repeat these words, your voice should be heard in heaven. Indiraji amar rahe, Indiraji amar rahe (Long live Indiraji).”

The crowd went berserk and 4,000 people looked at the sky, some with tears running down their eyes, and cheered, “Indiraji amar rahe.”

Ranjit Phulmali, a member of the tea tribe cell, Barbam panchayat, Amguri, said the BJP has made several attempts to make inroads into the tea gardens but they have been unsuccessful.

“Though Kamakhya Tasa, the BJP candidate, belongs to the tea tribe, there is no sympathy for his party here. We have benefited from many welfare schemes during the Congress regime. So we will vote for them. The Narendra Modi wave will only destroy whatever we have built so far,” the tea community leader said.

Former Union cabinet minister and veteran Congress leader Handique has been winning the seat continuously for the last six terms since 1991.

Former AGP strongman late Parag Chaliha had won the seat only in 1985.

Handique is the longest serving MP from the state. He was a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1982 to 1986.

Handique told The Telegraph, “I am confident of winning this time, too. A lot of work has been done during the Congress regime and we enjoy the goodwill of the people across all sections. The BJP has no organisation and is limited to some urban pockets only. The Modi myth has no impact in the Northeast and we will sweep the polls here, “ he said.

There are an estimated 3,50,000 tea garden votes in the Jorhat constituency of the 11,87,794-strong electorate.

Most of them have traditionally been Congress supporters.

Handique’s opponent from the AGP is Pradip Hazarika, former Amguri legislator, which is nestled on the periphery of the Jorhat and Sivasagar districts and is regarded as a prestigious constituency. There are 11,000 tea tribe voters in Amguri.