The BJP candidates of Silchar and Karimganj (SC) Lok Sabha constituencies are eying the 3.7 lakh voters of the 104 tea gardens of Barak Valley in southern Assam capitalising on the schemes and cashless payments started by the Narendra Modi government.
The assistant general secretary of Barak Cha Shramik Union, Dinanath Baroi, said traditionally the tea garden voters of the Barak valley supported the Congress. “The BJP government started the cashless payment system and opened accounts in the bank for all its workers but unfortunately it has not been successfully implemented because of poor Internet service. Not a single ATM was installed in the garden,” he alleged.
Baroi said there is a disparity between the daily wage payment of the labourers of tea gardens between Barak and Brahmaputra valleys. In the Brahmaputra Valley, it is Rs 167 while in Barak valley it is Rs 145.
A Congress leader of Silchar, Sanjiv Roy, alleged that the state government announced the opening of 100 lower primary schools in the tea gardens throughout the state but not a single school has been opened till date.
He said around two lakh voters of tea gardens of Silchar constituency generally vote for the Congress but in last panchayat election there was a 50-50 sharing.
“However, the Lok Sabha and panchayat elections are different because in panchayat polls voters see the persons and not party,” Roy added.
He said while the Congress has brought down the price of rice for poor tea workers, and the BJP is giving rice free in the gardens. He termed it as a “poll gimmick”.
Silchar Congress candidate Sushmita Dev is vigorously campaigning in the tea gardens. There are 13 candidates in the fray in Silchar. The total number of voters are 12,53,830.
Silchar is all set to witness direct contest between the Congress’s Dev and the BJP’s Rajdeep Roy.
There is no candidate from the tea garden community Silchar seat. One Dilip Kumar submitted his nomination as an Independent but later withdrew it.
Madhu Kalindi, a tea garden worker of Rukni garden of Cachar district, admitted that they get rice free of cost but their lifestyle has not changed much.
He said their daily wage has not been increased as expected in comparison to the Brahmaputra valley.
“The days have been changed and tea garden voters are aware of the fact that they are no longer used as vote bank by the political parties,” he added.
In Karimganj (SC) Lok Sabha seat, the BJP has fielded a candidate from tea garden community.
Deputy Speaker of Assam Assembly and Ratabari MLA Kripanath Mallah is contesting the seat, hoping to capitalise on the development done in the tea garden by the Modi government. He is confident that 1.8 lakh tea garden votes will go in his favour.
Mallah said drastic economic changes have been made in the tea gardens and workers are happy with the ruling BJP.
Rampyare Bhor, a tea garden labourer in Hailakandi district, said “Usually we vote for the Congress but this time we have changed our mind because of the sanction of some government schemes in the gardens.”
There are 14 candidates are in the fray and the total number of voters is 13,13,469 voters. The seat is all set to witness a contest between sitting AIUDF candidate Radhesyam Biswas, Swarup Das of the Congress and the BJP’s Kripanath Mallah.
The district administration has also started a huge awareness campaign in the tea gardens to increase voter turnout.
An official in Hailakandi said they are expecting a higher voting percentage in the gardens as poll day is a paid holiday.
Both Silchar and Karimganj will vote on April 18.