Tea garden workers and minorities, the two dominant vote banks in Assam have remained loyal to the BJP-led alliance and Congress-AIUDF respectively in the 2021 assembly polls. The electoral result in the constituencies influenced by the two communities have remained unchanged since the 2016 elections.
The BJP had begun making inroads in the tea garden areas prior to the 2014 Lok Sabha poll and consolidated its position in the community in the 2016 assembly election. In the recent state election, it improved its tally winning 27 of the 37 seats in the tea belt of the state seats. Its alliance partner the AGP won five constituencies dominated by the tea garden workers.
The Congress, which had enjoyed the unstinted support of this formidable vote bank for decades since independence, put up a dismal performance this time. It bagged only four seats, three down from the seven it had secured in 2016. One seat was won by the newly floated party Raijor Dal’s president Akhil Gogoi, who fought as an independent from behind the bars, a first in the state.
On the other hand the Congress-AIUDF alliance made a clean sweep in 29 seats of lower and central Assam and nine in Barak valley banking heavily on their sizeable minority electorate. The BJP and its alliance partners failed to win a single seat in lower and central Assam. The saffron partys sole minority member Animul Haque Laskar lost to AIUDFs Karimuddin Barbhuiya in Sonai constituency.
The new house will have 31 members from the Muslim community, the highest in the last three decades. This is being viewed as the communitys assertion of its identity in the face of BJP’s alleged attempts to polarise the society and attack those of erstwhile East Bengal descent. The Congress-AIUDF has won nine of the 15 constituencies of Barak Valley, from where the BJP had made its initial electoral foray in the state in 1991. The saffron party’s score dropped to six from eight as it lost two seats to the AIUDF and one to Congress. It, however, wrested one seat from the Congress.
Congress had won 15 and AIUDF secured 13 of the minority dominated constituencies in 2016, when the two parties had contested the assembly polls independently. Meanwhile, the eight lakh work force in 850 gardens of the state, spread across the tea districts of Jorhat, Golaghat, Sibsagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Bishwanath and Sonitpur voted for the BJP, which made inroads into the tea bastion with the support of RSS and its allied organizations.
BJP had won seven parliamentary seats in the state in 2014, out of which the tea belt area had accounted for four. The saffron party followed it up by winning 22 seats while its ally the AGP grabbed four in the 2016 assembly poll.
BJP increased its tally yet again in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll to nine, besides retaining all the seats it had won in the earlier elections. A snubbed Congress had made all-out effort to regain its lost ground this time with its election campaign focusing on increasing the daily wages of tea garden workers to Rs 365 from the existing Rs 167, promised free electricity to the workers, land rights and housing to landless and homeless persons from the tea tribes community and also a separate tea ministry.
The saffron party, in its election rallies by Prime Minister Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, party President J P Nadda along with the state leaders went all out to woo the tea garden workers by claiming that it was BJP that had ensured increase in tea workers wages twice during the last five years of its rule in the state. They claimed that it was the BJP government that had opened 7.5 lakh bank accounts for tea garden workers, ensured education of their wards by opening schools, provided health facilities from mobile medical units and financial aid to pregnant women, whose nutrition issues were also addressed.
The prime minister in his campaigns said that the NDA government at the Centre had allocated Rs 1000 crore exclusively for the development of the tea gardens and its workers in the union budget.