Modi rakes up toolkit row, claims Cong backing those trying to finish Assam tea

Modi rakes up toolkit row, claims Cong backing those trying to finish Assam tea

Chabua: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday accused the Congress of openly supporting forces that are out to finish the identity of Assam tea and destroy its tea industry.

Addressing an election rally in this Upper Assam town, a day after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi interacted with tea garden workers here, Modi alleged that the party is playing with the "pride and glory" of the oldest industry of the state.

He said a toolkit recently sought to defame Assam tea, famous across the world, and Yoga, the legacy of India's ancient saints, as part of a "conspiracy".

"A conspiracy was hatched against Assam tea. You must have heard about a toolkit. It sought to destroy the tea gardens of Assam. No Indian will allow that," he said.

The prime minister was apparently referring to Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg's controversial toolkit, which she tweeted and then deleted, outlining ways in which people can participate in the farmers protest.

One of the points reportedly mentioned there was to "disrupt yoga and chai image of India in general".

"Congress is supporting such forces. And while doing so it has the temerity to come here and seek votes of the tea garden workers. They have fallen so low. They will be punished.

"Who can understand the problems of tea workers better than a 'chaiwala'," Modi said referring to his humble background when as a small boy he used to sell tea at a railway station and on trains in his native Gujarat.

Assam tea, full bodied and strong, has often been the flavour of electoral discourse during the campaign for the assembly elections.

Earlier this month, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra wore the traditional 'mekhla chador', attempted a few steps of 'jhumur and learned how to fling with ease freshly plucked tea leaves into the wicker basket fastened to her back while on campaign trail in Assam.

Rahul Gandhi, while electioneering in Assam, lamented the poor wages of tea garden workers.

"Assam's tea garden workers get Rs 167 as daily wage while traders from Gujarat get tea gardens. We will raise tbe daily wage of tea garden workers to Rs 365 per day. From where the money will come? It will come from the traders from Gujarat," he had told an election rally in Sivasagar.

The promise of raising the daily wage of tea garden workers from Rs 167 a day to Rs 365 also features in the Congress's election manifesto which Gandhi released on Saturday.

Gandhi, who on Friday had lunch with tea workers seated on ground, declared the hike will come into force within six hours of the Congress forming its government in the state.

Meanwhile, during his second rally in the election-bound Bengal in three days, Modi alleged Banerjee was engaged in "khela" (game) of appeasement for vote bank politics.

He also accused the TMC supremo of presiding over an administration full of 'tolabaj' (extortionists) and corrupt people.

Rejecting the outsider tag Mamata Banerjee has given to his party, the PM said, "The BJP is the only real party of Bengal. Syama Prasad Mookerjee founded Jana Sangh, the BJP's forerunner. He was the son of Bengal."

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