Poll bo­nanza for vil­lages claimed by both AP, Odisha

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - FRONT PAGE - Satya­narayan Pat­tnaik

Ko­ra­put: Ku­muti Gamel of Neridi­walasa vil­lage has been ex­pect­ing the rush of of­fi­cials with health camps, fi­nan­cial pack­ages and other schemes. It is, after all, elec­tion time, and such height­ened ac­tiv­ity by the ad­min­is­tra­tion is com­mon across In­dia.

But there is a dif­fer­ence: Neridi­walasa and 27 other vil­lages un­der Ko­tia pan­chayat see the ar­rival of of­fi­cials from both Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, be­cause both states have laid claim to the area.

Ko­tia — which has of­fi­cially been in Odisha since the state was formed in 1936 and was claimed by what was un­di­vided Andhra Pradesh when that state was formed in 1953 — is part of the Pot­tangi assem­bly seat and the Ko­ra­put Lok Sabha seat in Odisha, but also in the Salur assem­bly and Araku Lok Sabha con­stituen­cies in Andhra. The sta- (Left) Andhra of­fi­cials pre­pare Aad­haar cards for Neridi­walasa res­i­dents; Ko­ra­put (in Odisha) col­lec­tor K S Chakravarthy (in black shirt) at an event at the same vil­lage

tus of Ko­tia is sub ju­dice as both states went to court and the dis­pute has been be­fore the Supreme Court since 1968.

Twenty-one of Ko­tia’s 28 vil­lages have been at the cen­tre of the tus­sle. The dis­pute es­ca­lated in Jan­uary 2018 after the Andhra gov­ern­ment laun-

ched Jan­mab­hoomi pro­gramme there, and the col­lec­tor of Viziana­garam dis­trict at­tended the event with­out, as Odisha claimed, in­ti­mat­ing his coun­ter­part in Ko­ra­put. This prompted the BJD gov­ern­ment here to an­nounce schemes for Ko­tia. Now, with polls in both states and na­tional elec­tions just months away, both gov­ern­ments have once again gone into over­drive.

On Jan­uary 7, of­fi­cials from Andhra vis­ited Neridi­walasa and dis­trib­uted blan­kets and diet sup­ple­ments among chil­dren and preg­nant women. They also con­ducted a free health camp there. The fol­low­ing day, Ko­ra­put col­lec­tor K Su­dar­shan Chakravarthy vis­ited Ph­a­gu­nase­nari vil­lage for a pro­gramme to make peo­ple aware of the Odisha gov­ern­ment’s schemes. This, too, was fol­lowed by a free health camp. In the last week of De­cem­ber, Andhra of­fi­cials had vis­ited with Aad­haar cards and old-age pen­sion pa­pers.

Andhra’s al­leged in­tru­sion last Jan­uary had prompted Odisha to de­clare a spe­cial pack­age of Rs 150 crore for the de­vel­op­ment of Ko­tia, which has pre­dom­i­nantly tribal res­i­dents.

It an­nounced a 10-bed hos­pi­tal, a high school, a po­lice sta­tion, a bus ser­vice, elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of vil­lages and roads worth Rs 5 crore. “The state gov­ern­ment is de­vel­op­ing in­fra­struc­ture in Ko­tia. These projects are be­ing reg­u­larly mon­i­tored and all so­cial se­cu­rity pro­grammes of the state are be­ing im­ple­mented here,” said Chakravarthy.

The res­i­dents are not com­plain­ing. “This (pre-elec­tion ac­tiv­ity) is not new for us but this time, there is stiff com­pe­ti­tion be­tween both states to win us over,” said Ko­tia res­i­dent Suku Pangi.

“Most vil­lagers have voter iden­tity cards of the two states. Dur­ing polls — be it pan­chayat or assem­bly — we cast votes in both states as the polling dates are usu­ally dif­fer­ent,” said Ku­muti Gamel, who pos­sesses voter iden­tity cards of Odisha and Andhra.

Ko­ra­put dis­trict of­fi­cials said that while the ad­min­is­tra­tion usu­ally des­ig­nated seven booths for the Ko­tia pan­chayat dur­ing the gen­eral elec­tion, the Andhra gov­ern­ment des­ig­nated three for the 21 dis­puted vil­lages. With a pop­u­la­tion of 4,448, the vil­lages have around 1,600 el­i­gi­ble vot­ers. Dur­ing the 2014 gen­eral elec­tion, Ko­tia voted twice. On April 10, the res­i­dents voted to elect MP for Ko­ra­put Lok Sabha seat; on May 7, they voted to elect the leg­is­la­tor of the Araku Lok Sabha seat. In the event of a clash in elec­tion dates, the vil­lagers say they will vote in the Odisha polls.

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