Assam Elections

Tea garden workers and Muslim voters would be decisive in Assam elections

Tea garden workers and Muslim voters would be decisive in Assam elections

At Sivasagar, Rahul Gandhi ,Congress Vice president during his recent visit in Assam made it a point to meet leaders of community of tea garden. A rally was also attended by him and was well attended as per locals

In 2011 Assam, a Record was scored in third term, driven by good showing in areas particularly dominated by community of Tea workers. In that year Congress won a vote share of nearly 46 percent, Out of total 56 seats, Congress won 44 seats in upper Assam which is dominated by community of Tea workers. However Bhartiya Janta Party won just total of 13 percent votes with just 2 seats.

In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, situation changed drastically. In this region Bharitya Janta Party had won 5 of 6 seats, with share of vote of 45 percent.Congress was able to win 1 vote with a share of vote of 34 percent.

In Assam 2014 Lok Sabha elections,Bhartiya Janta Party had occupied 69 out of the 126 assembly segments. While Congress had occupied 23 assembly segments.

In order to recapture its control over upper Assam, region with maximum number of seats. Congress leaders like Rahul Gandhi are trying hard and making efforts to win seats and support from community of tea garden.The community of tea garden holds 30 out of 35 voters of the total 126 seats in the state.

“The community has always favoured us in all elections since 1952,” said Paban Singh Ghatowar, former union minister and now Congress’ campaign committee chief in the state.

According to him in 2014 Assembly elections ,Congress did not get the support ,Congress was expecting though this time it will be different and have much better expectations. Congress will try to repeat 2011 performance.

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Half of the country’s total tea production is nearly accounted by Assam. In the state there are 825 large and 68,465 small tea gardens. 2009, 2010 and 2011 are the three continuing years of good tea production in the state.This may be the reason in the last Assembly elections, Congress did not do well.

In 2014 tea production however, fell by 5 per cent and in 2015 by 6 per cent.In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections,this may account for behind Congress’ poor performance. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections Barak Valley and lower Assam are two other regions of the state where Congress retained its vote.

“Lok Sabha and Assembly elections are fought on different sets of issues,” said Sandhya Goswami, professor at Guwahati-based Gauhati University

According to her, in upcoming Assembly elections it is very unlikely that it will follow Lok Sabha pattern. However for the elections outcome community of tea garden will play a vital role.

From Jharkhand, Bihar Chhattisgarh and Odisha in the 19th Century nearly six million plantation workers were brought in Assam by the British tea garden owners.Community of Tea garden is demanding status of scheduled tribe,before Lok Sabha elections which the BJP had promised.

“Community members are a disenchanted lot now as the BJP has not fulfilled the promise so far,” said Delhi-based journalist now settled in Guwahati said

He further added that this will help Congress to reclaim its position among the community members.

Landless workers were given land, the community students were given free bus services,In the sector for the workers higher minimum wages was suggested. Members of the community tea prices recent rise have led to ‘feel-good factor’.

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Muslims votes is another important factor which consist of 34 percent share of votes and out of 32 32 districts in the state 9 out of them are Muslim Majority.

Centre for the Study of Developing Societies states that in political point of view 2 groups of the community is there,First is mainly in upper Assam- the Muslims who speak Assamese and second is in lower Assam –the Muslims who speak Bangla.

According to Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in the 2011 Assembly election, the Muslims who speak Assamese favored Congress even in 2014 trend continues. All India United Democratic Front however is favored by the Muslims who speak Bangla. In 2011 All India United Democratic Front gained 18 seats 24 Assembly segments were led in Lok Sabha elections 2014.

Out of 50 seats in total, Congress won 16 in lower Assam whereas in 2011 AIUDF won 13 seats.

In the Assembly elections, imitating 2014 performance going to be challenging.

“There is a perception that the party promised a lot to the state before the Lok Sabha elections and very little has been delivered,” said Sandhya Goswami

With Bodo People’s Progressive Front,Bhartiya Janta Party had ceased an alliance which has a strong presence in Bodo Territorial Council area. With Asom Gana Parishad, Bhartiya Janta Party is also expecting an alliance,which is still pending.

In the 2011 Assembly elections, Bodo People’s Progressive Front won 12 seats and 10 seats had won by Asom Gana Parishad. Ahead of elections,its chief ministerial candidate was nominated.


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