Writes ANIRBAN CHOUDHURY & AVIJIT SINHA
May 20: The tea belt in the Dooars has voted for Trinamul and the BJP, the parties that have negligible or no trade unison base in the region for the first time.
Trinamul has won four of the five seats and the BJP bagged one.
In the past, Malbazar, Nagrakata, Madarihat, Kalchini and Kumargram were with the Left Front or the Congress.
While Malbazar and Nagrakata are in Jalpaiguri district Madarihat, Kalchini and Kumargram are in Alipurduar.
"There was a common trend in the tea belt of the Dooars and Terai. In seats where the Citu or Utuc-backed unions were strong, the CPM or the RSP used to win and in places where Intuc-backed union was strong, the Congress would win," Gopal Pradhan, the president of the Utuc-backed Dooars Cha Bagan Workers' Union, said. "This is the first time that tea workers have voted for Trinamul and the BJP."
He added: "While the BJP does not have any trade union base in the tea belt, Trinamul has many and the total support base of such unions - which claim to be affiliates of the INTTUC - is less compared to Citu, Utuc or Intuc."
Trade union leaders said the campaigns by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee and interventions by both the state and central governments had worked.
"Tea workers who used to vote for the parent parties of the trade unions have started differentiating between unions and political parties," Mani Kumar Darnal, the joint general secretary of the Intuc-backed National Union of Plantation Workers, said.
A change has also been seen in the Terai's two Assembly seats in Darjeeling district.
In Matigara-Naxalbari, Sankar Malakar of the Congress won by a margin of 18,627 votes. In Phansidewa, Sunil Tirkey of the Congress has won by 7,074 votes. In both the seats, BJP's votes have increased by around six times compared to 2011. Trinamul has increased its votes compared to 2014.
Manoj Tigga, the BJP winner from Madarihat, said tea workers had lost faith in unions. "They want state and Centre to address their issues."