Poll bonanza for villages claimed by both AP, Odisha
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.