Cornered after his defeat in the assembly by-poll in Darjeeling in the hands of BJP, GJM leader Binay Tamang got some relief when his demand for 20 per cent bonus for tea workers was accepted by the garden owners on Friday.
Mr Tamang was on a hunger strike since October 6 to press for the demand and withdrew it on Friday evening after the garden owners agreed to pay the bonus.
The Darjeeling tea gardens on Friday agreed to pay 20 per cent bonus for the year in two instalments. The decision was announced after a tripartite meeting called by state labour minister Malay Ghatak was held in Kolkata.
About 55,000 permanent and 15,000 temporary workers from around 87 Darjeeling tea gardens will benefit by the decision, officials said.
According to sources, the six-day-long hunger strike by Mr Tamang and its success in getting his demand fulfilled has provided his faction of GJM the upper hand over the faction led by Bimal Gurung, who is presently in hiding.
"Binay Tamang and his faction were completely cornered in hill politics after BJP with Gurung's support won both the Darjeeling Lok Sabha and assembly seats this year. Tamang was completely cornered. He wanted some platform to bounce back. This agitation over bonus payout provided him that much-needed opportunity," said a former GJM leader, who did not wish to be named.
The Mr Tamang faction had supported the TMC candidates in the polls. The GJM faction led by Mr Gurung declined to attach much importance to Mr Tamang's hunger strike and called it a "drama".
It said the agitation could have been considered a victory had the tea garden workers received the entire 20 per cent bonus in one go.
"We had demanded 20 per cent bonus in one go not in two instalments. What Binay Tamang was doing for the last six days was nothing but a drama. He is never bothered about the benefit of the hill people, but only in his own vested interests," Roshan Giri, a leader of the Bimal Gurung faction, said.
BJP leader and Darjeeling MP Raju Bisht said the TMC government deliberately delayed the matter to hand over political ammunition to Mr Tamang.