Caught between Odisha, AP, Kotia set to vote

The Kotia cluster comprises 21 disputed villages nestled amidst remote hills on the border between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha….reports Asian Lite News

On May 13, 2024, both Odisha and Andhra Pradesh are scheduled to hold Lok Sabha elections. However, in the Kotia disputed border areas, residents face a dilemma regarding which state to vote in.

The Kotia cluster comprises 21 disputed villages nestled amidst remote hills on the border between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. Located approximately 50 km from Koraput and 150 km from Vishakhapatnam, these villages are geographically isolated yet central to the ongoing territorial dispute between the two states.

The Andhra Pradesh government’s actions have added to the confusion, as they have attempted to sway Kotia voters with various incentives, potentially influencing their voting decisions. This situation has created uncertainty and complexity for residents in deciding their electoral allegiance. Due to the territorial dispute, there might be complexities in voting, with people potentially having ties to both states.

Sunil Kumar Biswal, Secretary of Koraput Vikas Parisad, highlighted that 21 surrounding villages of Kotia have historically been recognized as part of Odisha since records dating back to 1936, coinciding with the formation of the first language-based states. Initially, under the control of the Jeypore zamindary, Kotia was integrated into Odisha when the state was established. However, a dispute arose in 1971 when Andhra Pradesh laid claim to Kotia, leading to ongoing tensions.

Despite being under Odisha’s jurisdiction, Andhra Pradesh has endeavoured to provide similar facilities to Kotia and its neighbouring villages, even holding elections for various levels of governance.

Saikn Ibrahim, Cashier, Koraput Vikas Parishad, while speaking with ANI on the environment amidst the elections said, “The situation is very confusing. But we have to see how the government of Odisha and the authorities of Koraput will handle the situation.”

He added further, “In 2021, the Panchayat elections were conducted by Jagan Mohan Reddy and 615 people went to vote… The very poor people don’t care about Andhra or Odisha, and they vote for those who help them in times of need. However, the government of Odisha has done a lot of infrastructure work and it falls on our administration to motivate the Adivadis to vote for the Odisha government.”

Prime Minister Modi’s comment on Odia Asmita (identity) has sparked hope among residents for a resolution to the dispute, potentially restoring Odisha’s rightful claim to Kotia and its surrounding villages.

The area in and around the polling stations on the Odisha side of the cluster Kotia and Tala Ganjaipadar is where the majority of voters are Odia-speaking. Andhra Pradesh has set up a polling station down the hill, where more Telugu-speaking people reside.

The distance between the polling stations in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha is around 17 km. However, the polling booths of Andhra Pradesh are far from the villages situated in uphill areas of Kotia.

Kotia cluster is located between the Araku Lok Sabha Constituency and Salur Assembly Constituency on the Andhra Pradesh side and Koraput Lok Sabha Constituency and Koraput Assembly Constituency on the Odisha side. The Andhra government in haste has confused the residents of the Odisha-Andhra border by showing various temptations to capture the Kotiya voters.

Villagers are getting welfare benefits like ration, old age pension, as well as various schemes from both the states. (ANI)

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