Andhra Pradesh holds panchayat polls in Odisha village despite official protest
Odisha had accused Andhra Pradesh of contempt of court by holding the panchayat election in three border villages.
A day after the Supreme Court fixed February 19 as the date of hearing of the case of Andhra Pradesh “invading” Odisha’s territory, the Jagan Reddy government on Saturday went ahead with panchayat polls in one of the villages of Koraput district despite the Odisha government asking it to not to do so.
On Friday, the SC asked Andhra Pradesh to file its response after Odisha moved a contempt of court petition, seeking action against the neighbouring state over its violation of the apex court order in 1968 and 2006 alleging that the neighbouring state was trying to hold panchayat polls in three of its bordering villages. The Odisha government in its petition informed the court that the three villages where Andhra Pradesh is holding the panchayat elections fall within Odisha and form part of 21 villages in respect of which a suit was filed in 1968 by Odisha in the Supreme Court.
The panchayat polls which began in Andhra Pradesh on February 9 will end on February 21.
On Saturday morning hundreds of villagers of Patusinri village under Kotia grampanchayat in Koraput district were seen queuing up at polling booths across the inter-state border even as Koraput district collector Abdaal Akhtar wrote to his counterpart in Andhra to desist from holding the polls as the matter was sub-judice.
Officials said on Saturday morning, hundreds of people of Patunsiri (renamed as Pattu Chennuru by Andhra Pradesh) were seen going to the polling booths despite Pottangi BDO and Tehslidar urging them not to go. The voting began from 6 am and will conclude at 3 pm.
Sarpanches for two other villages - Talaganjeipadar and Phagunseneri - that were declared as separate grampanchayats by the Andhra Pradesh government have been elected unopposed. The AP government renamed Talaganjeipadar as Ganjayibhadra and Phagunseneri as as Paguluchennuru in its panchayat poll notification.
On Friday, Koraput district collector in a letter to Vizianagaram district collector M Hari Jawaharlal said that as the matter was sub-judice, no election should be held there. “In its oral observations, the SC has observed that should the state of Andhra Pradesh go ahead with its plans, necessary consequences will follow," Akhtar wrote.
According to the Odisha government, the group of villages of Kotia GP form part of the Koraput parliamentary constituency and the Potangi Assembly segment. There are 2,448 voters and all of them have been provided election photo identity cards. The state government told the SC that it has been conducting the general census in Kotia since 1951.
But despite the Odisha government's submission in the SC, officials conceded that it would be tough for them to administer the villages of Kotia GP. While doctors of Andhra Pradesh can reach the Kotia panchayat by travelling only 15 km distance, those in Odisha have to cover a distance of 70 km. Around 60 per cent people of the panchayat speak and understand Telugu as against 40 per cent Odia speaking. The AP government last year granted land rights under the Forest Right Act to 19 families in Arjuvalsa village.
The panchayat polls may become embarrassing for the Naveen Patnaik government as it comes just before the Budget session starting next week. On Friday, a delegation of BJP leaders led by the Odisha unit chief Samir Mohanty had forced officials from Andhra Pradesh to retreat in Gangabada GP in Gajapati district where the latter were trying to conduct panchayat polls.