Bhubaneswar/Koraput, Feb 13 (PTI) Despite opposition from Odisha government, the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh Saturday conducted gram panchayat polls in Kotia area of Koraput district, the region on which both the states have been staking their claim.
Even though district magistrate of Koraput Abdaal Akhtar wrote a letter to his Vizianagaram counterpart requesting not to conduct elections in the disputed Kotia region as the matter is sub-judice in the Supreme Court, the Andhra government set up polling booth at Potu Senari and voting was held under a thick security cover, official sources said.
'Our poll was conducted peacefully and out of 1025 voters as many as 615, including 306 females, exercised their franchise,' said a polling official from Andhra Pradesh.
The second phase of polling for 2,786 panchayats took place in Andhra Pradesh during the day.
The Odisha government had approached the Supreme Court against Andhra Pradesh for conducting panchayat polls in Kotia and the Apex Court Friday served notice to the Andhra government and posted the case for February 19.
The neighbouring Andhra Pradesh holding rural polls within Odisha territory has sparked a political row in the state with opposition BJP and Congress accusing the BJD government of failing to protect the states territory.
'Shame on BJD government! It is CMs incompetence that has become Odishas biggest weakness. It is time to rise and act swiftly. I urge Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to show some guts and stand up against these advances of Andhra Pradesh government,' OPCC president Niranjan Patnaik said.
Stating that Odisha will not allow even an inch of its territory to be taken by Andhra Pradesh, OPCC president alleged that the BJD government has failed to provide even basic amenities to the people of Kotia during 20 years of its rule. Therefore, few people may be preferring Andhra Pradesh, he said.
The state BJP president Samir Mohanty also came down heavily on the states BJD government, accusing it of not being able to protect the states territory.
'The BJP will soon set up a border security cell to look after the grievances of the people living in the bordering areas,' Mohantty said, adding nobody in Odisha will tolerate such a laxity on part of the state government.
While the Kotia panchayat comes under Pottangi block of Koraput, the Andhra government has divided the 21 disputed villages into three panchayats namely Ganjaibadra, Pattuchennuru and Paguluchinnru under Salur mandal by changing the names of villages identified in Odisha as Talaganjeipadar, Potu Senari and Phagun Senari.
Whereas the sarpanchs at Talaganjeipadar and Phagun Senari were elected uncontested, the Andhra conducted election for Potu Senari where two women candidates are in the fray for the post of sarpanch.
'Andhra government conducting panchayat polls inside the Kotia panchayat is illegal. As the matter is sub-judice in the Supreme Court we cant speak much on it,' said Haripada Mandal, tehasildar, Pottangi.
Meanwhile, to woo the Potu Senari residents, the Koraput administration had organised a cultural programme highlighting its social security measures and distributed old-age pensions and Rs 1 besides a kg of rice among the beneficiaries on Friday.
Both the Odisha and Andhra government have been engaged in a five-decade long tug of war over the ownership of 21 out of the 28 villages in the Kotia panchayat and the case is with the apex court since 1968. PTI COR AAM SNS SNS