GUWAHATI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday invoked his “chaiwallah” past to reach out to the estimated 30 lakh voters in Assam’s tea gardens — a move believed to to checkmate Rahul Gandhi who raised the stakes the previous day by promising daily wage of Rs 365 to tea workers within six hours of government formation.
The tea belt has 28 seats spread over five districts where the voters decide the electoral fortunes of any political party. For decades, tea garden workers have been fighting for a decent daily wage of Rs 350.
At present, the daily wage has come down to Rs 167 after the Gauhati High Court stayed compulsory implementation of the state government’s order of a hike of Rs 50 to tea companies.
Modi, while addressing a campaign rally at Chabua in Dibrugarh district, said, “If the chaiwallah won’t understand tea workers’ pain, who else would? We are working to increase the wages for tea garden workers. We tried to increase the wages but the matter ended up in court and the opposition is targeting us for it.
I assure that the NDA government’s campaign will be intensified to improve the standard of living of tea gardens workers.”
These 28 seats, along with 19 others spread across the northern banks of the Brahamputra, will go to polls in the first phase on March 27. Past trends show that the party winning majority of the tea belt seats has eventually formed the government. In 2016, BJP and its ally, AGP, together had own 21 of these 28 seats in the tea belt.
Modi stuck to tea gardens as he ramped up his attack against Congress and added, “India’s oldest party, who ruled over India for 50-55 years, is supporting people who’re trying to remove India’s image associated with tea. Can we forgive Congress for this? Don’t they deserve to get punished?”
“A toolkit has been circulated that will defame the tea of Assam and our yoga. It has prepared a plan and the makes of this toolkit want to inflict losses on our tea plantations. The Congress party supports these toolkit makers and still has the audacity to ask for votes in Assam. Can we forgive a party such as this?” he asked.
Talking about a recent post on the social media by Congress, Modi stated, “Congress has gone very far from the people of Assam. A few days ago, they shared a photo from Sri Lanka and said it was Assam. A few days ago, they shared a photo from Taiwan and said it was Assam. It is injustice and insult to our beautiful Assam.”
Speaking on development, Modi said, “Development of every region of Assam is a priority for the BJP government. We are committed to ensuring that the culture and heritage of the state remains protected. The BJP government is continuously working to give new opportunities to the youth of Assam and to create a better environment for industries in Assam. Our government is also working hard to further empower the women of Assam and to increase the income of the farmers of Assam.”
He added, “You know very well what was the condition of the bridges on the Brahmaputra here 5 years ago. Leave the new bridges, which were started by the Atal ji government years ago, they were also hung by the Congress governments. We completed these projects quickly.”
“Assam has an integral role to play in the vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat. It can be an exporter of several organic foods, and not just tea. There are massive opportunities for production of organic fruits, vegetables and salads in this region,” the PM said.
Continuing his attack on Congress, Modi said, “On one hand, our government is working on the mantra of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas – sabka vishwas’. On the other hand, Congress has become the hub of false declarations. People from all over the country are watching and understanding their agenda behind lies.”
Urging the people of Assam to vote for BJP, the PM remarked that to maintain peace in Assam, there was a constant need of the BJP government.