The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tea troubles plague Cong
- Rap on Gogoi for limp strategy

Guwahati, July 24: The Congress high command has questioned the effectiveness of the Tarun Gogoi government’s strategy to reclaim the support of the tea tribes, which have gradually distanced themselves from a party they had been supporting for decades.

Sources in the Congress said AICC general secretary (in charge of Assam) Digvijay Singh conveyed the high command’s concern during the party co-ordination committee’s meeting with the government. “The government was asked to ensure that its efforts to address the grievances of the community is visible,” a source said.

Influential tea organisations, including the All Assam Tea Tribes Students Association (ATTSA) and the All Adivasi Students Association of Assam, have made obvious their resentment over the government’s alleged indifference to the community’s plight.

The ATTSA had even threatened to prevent chief minister Tarun Gogoi and other Congress leaders from entering the areas dominated by the tea tribes. The plan was, however, not carried out with the organisation divided into two groups on the issue. One group is headed by the organisation’s president, Durga Bhumij, while the other is led by its general secretary, Tero Goala.

Some leaders of the community and advisers of the association are trying to arrange a patch-up so that they can continue to function as a pressure group.

Several senior Congress leaders from the tea community, such as Silvius Condopan, were also vocal in party forums about the lack of initiative on the part of the state government to redress the grievances of the community.

However, unlike some minority leaders of the party, they restricted their expressions of ire to party fora.

The tea organisations had submitted a long list of demands to the government, which includes proper housing, healthcare and drinking water facilities apart from Scheduled Tribes status for the community.

Though the party admitted that the government has taken some steps to fulfil some of the demands, with a separate department being created to look into the community’s problems, it reportedly pointed out to the government that this was not enough.

Even the influential Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha, a frontal wing of the Congress party which wields considerable clout among the community, has also drawn the attention of the party high command to Dispur’s “casual” approach towards the problems of the tea community, the Congress tea leader said.

The party is suffering sleepless nights about the growing resentment among the tea community against it as its minority support base is already showing cracks over the repeal of the IM(DT) Act.

“The high command is of the view that the party will be in a soup if we lose the support of the tea voters at this juncture,” a Congress leader from the tea community said.

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