Himansu Shekhar Rout

Ahead of the upcoming elections, neighbouring Andhra Pradesh has again turned its sharp focus on Kotia panchayat in Odisha's Koraput, which has been caught in an unending border row. 

Simultaneous elections are scheduled on May 13 in Kotia (Pottangi Assembly seat) and the Koraput Lok Sabha seat in Odisha and in the Arku Lok Sabha seat in the neighbouring state. 

Now, the question arises, how many voters will favour Odisha and how many will vote in Andhra this time.

Andhra has been deeming Kotia as part of the Salur district and has reportedly drawn a blueprint to garner as many votes as possible from Kotia this time. Many people have reportedly voting rights in Andhra Pradesh. Kotia panchayat consists of 21 villages sharing borders with Andhra.

Andhra, which has ever been trying to intrude into Neredibalsa, has decided to set up its polling centre. That apart, the neighbouring state is planning to get voters of Tadibalsa, Sembi, Dhulipadar and Arjubalsa. 

The Salur district administration is attaching much importance to the Kotia people because Salur is the home turf of incumbent Andhra Deputy Chief Minister, P Rajan. Grabbing the votes of the Kotia people will help Rajan to get an advantage over his rival. 

Salpu Gemeri, a resident of Ganjeipadar said, "The Andhra admin is providing all facilities like food and transportation for voters. If the Odisha government does not provide similar facilities, people will exercise their franchise in Andhra.”

Kotia which falls under the Pottangi Assembly seat has a population of 7,728. Of them, 5,502 are voters. The Odisha government has made nine polling booths in Kotia. All the polling booths are located 2 kms apart.

As there is no booth close to Neredibalsa, the villagers are reluctant to vote in Odisha, even as the Koraput Collector has been visiting the villagers and sensitizing people to participate in the polls in Odisha.  

Odisha Chief Electoral Officer, Nikunja Bihari Dhal, who visited Kotia, said that there is no challenge for Kotia. “Simultaneous elections had been held earlier. Our polling percentage is good here. In the last two elections, 67 and 70 per cent polling were recorded,” he noted.   

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Kotia sarpanch, Liu Gemel said that people have been inclined towards Andhra because of a host of benefits and sops being provided by the neighbouring state. The sarpanch added that residents fear being deprived of such benefits if they do not vote for Andhra. When elections come, they take people in vehicles, he added.  

Sources said Andhra has also planned to set up a makeshift camp for voters who will take shelter a day before the elections. 

Sunduri Tading, a resident of Madakar, said, "We are voting in both places. If we do not do so, we will be deprived of benefits."

  • Reported by:
  • Surya Narayan Panda