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Lok Sabha polls 2024: Demands of tea tribes hold key in Assam’s Sonitpur

The BJP and Congress are expected to be locked in a straight fight, though the AAP nominee could emerge as a 'spoiler' to some extent for both sides.
Last Updated : 18 April 2024, 07:35 IST
Last Updated : 18 April 2024, 07:35 IST

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Tezpur (Assam): From longstanding demands of the tea tribes to aspirations of the culturally-conscious citizens to expectations of the youth, varied issues will be at the fore when Assam’s Sonitpur Lok Sabha constituency goes to polls on Friday.

The BJP and Congress are expected to be locked in a straight fight, though the AAP nominee could emerge as a 'spoiler' to some extent for both sides.

The earlier Tezpur constituency was re-christened as 'Sonitpur' in the delimitation exercise carried out in the state last year, with no major changes in boundaries or demography as the number of Assembly segments also remained unchanged at nine.

The BJP, which has been winning the seat since 2014, has dropped its incumbent MP Pallab Lochan Das, a tea tribe leader, and fielded sitting MLA Ranjit Dutta, who is also a former state party chief.

The Congress has put up first-timer Prem Lal Ganju, a tea tribe leader who is also a general secretary of the state unit, while Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has fielded Rishiraj Kaundinya.

Riding on the “developmental works” done in the last 10 years, the BJP nominee claimed he has the edge among the total eight candidates.

"People's trust in us will be visible in the results when we retain the seat with a margin of 3.5-4 lakh voters," asserted Dutta, who represents Behali assembly segment within Sonitpur.

Listing measures undertaken specifically for the tea tribes, who form 25-30 per cent of voters, he said, "It is the BJP which brought the tea tribes under government beneficiary schemes. They are now getting PMAY houses, ration cards, land pattas and other benefits.”

The Centre has also been working on the tea tribes' demand for ST status, though it would take time, he said.

Dutta slammed the Congress, accusing it of not doing anything for the tea tribes or general uplift of the constituency though its MPs had represented Tezpur in the Lok Sabha since its formation till 2009, barring one term in 1977.

Congress candidate Ganju, however, alleged that the BJP has failed to keep its poll promises and 'conscious voters' will choose his party this time.

He said, "The BJP had promised that the daily wage of labourers will be Rs 351, ST status will be given to tea tribes and land rights will be given. But nothing has happened."

AAP's Kaundinya claimed that people are fed up with the Congress and BJP brands of politics, and are ready to give his party a chance.

He maintained that the people of Sonitpur are aware of the AAP government's schemes in Delhi and Punjab, like free electricity and healthcare facilities, and wanted such programmes here also.

The tea tribes are keeping their cards under wraps, with many voicing dissatisfaction over the current BJP regime while another section appreciating the initiatives being taken for the community.

Nabajyoti Sahu, a local leader of the Assam Tea Tribes Students' Association said, "We have seen both Congress and BJP governments. None has been able to address our core problems of increased minimum daily wage, land patta and social security measures. We will be keeping all factors in mind while voting."

Paban Bawri of the All Adivasi Students Association of Assam said, "The BJP had made so many promises, but those were only half met. We will be more careful when we choose our MP this time."

Those involved with the active cultural society of the area view politics and culture as interlinked.

Rabindranath Sarma, a senior citizen who is active in the cultural field of Tezpur, maintained that some good welfare measures have been taken for the people over the years, especially for the economically weaker sections, interior areas and agricultural sector, but the new government will have to equip itself to deal with emerging challenges, like climate change.

The youths have their own set of expectations and will look for a development-based agenda while choosing their candidate, Rekha Kalita, a first-time voter, said.

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Published 18 April 2024, 07:35 IST

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