Jorhat, March 11: The Assam Tea Tribes Students Association (ATTSA) has warned political parties to refrain from their age-old practice of wooing tea garden voters with the three Bs — booze, blankets and bucks.
The association’s assistant general secretary, Dhiraj Gowala, said the decision in this regard was taken in its executive meeting held here yesterday.
“A meeting of all the district-level leaders of the association will be held at Dergaon on March 21 to discuss the nitty-gritties of ensuring that no political parties indulge in such means during campaigns in tea gardens,” he said.
The tea community students’ leader also warned that any candidate found resorting to such means would come under attack from ATTSA activists and it should not be blamed for any untoward incidents. He said the association would also request poll authorities to keep a special vigil in tea garden areas to thwart illegal means of wooing voters.
Gowala said the activists would also launch an awareness campaign in tea gardens starting next week so that the garden voters keep away from taking gifts from politicians.
There are an estimated one million workers in Assam’s 800-odd tea gardens and they are a deciding factor in at least four parliamentary constituencies in the state — Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Kaliabor and Tezpur. Most of them have traditionally been Congress supporters. However, there have been allegations that candidates of political parties, including the Congress, resort to distributing liquor, blankets and money to woo tea community voters.
“Election in tea gardens means a grand feast where liquor flows like water. I hate elections as the politicians never keep their promises. They give free alcohol to the men and distribute a few blankets and forget us once the results are announced,” Kunti Gowala, a worker at Cinnamara tea estate here, said.
Cinnamara tea estate belongs to the state government-owned Assam Tea Corporation Ltd and the condition of the workers at the garden is pathetic with no regular pay or ration.
There are also instances of election officials seizing large quantities of blankets and liquor from tea garden areas during election campaigns.
Gowala said political parties have been exploiting the tea garden community by resorting to illegal means of distributing money and liquor during the election campaigns to woo voters.
“No political party has shown seriousness about working for the development of the community, including the Congress,” he said.
He, however, said unlike earlier elections, when the association had issued warnings to political parties not to enter tea garden areas for campaigning, the students’ body would choose a different method.
“Instead, we will ask the tea garden voters to be careful in choosing the candidates and vote accordingly,” he said.