Border disputes between neighbouring states are not exactly unheard of in India. But this was perhaps the first time when one state conducted panchayat elections in another. On February 13, Andhra Pradesh conducted panchayat elections in three villages under Kotia panchayat in Koraput district in Odisha: Tala Ganjeipadar, Patusineri and Phagunseneri. While designating them as separate panchayats, Andhra renamed the three villages as Ganjeibadara, Pattuchenuru and Pagluchennuru.
The voter list published by the Andhra government has 1,025 voters in the three panchayats. The polls were also conducted in some villages of Gajapati and Ganjam districts.
The Kotia dispute between the two neighbouring states has lingered since 1968. A case in this regard is pending in the Supreme Court since then. On December 2, 1968, the apex court had passed an order asking for status quo to be maintained till the final disposal of the case, which holds till now.
In a desperate, last-minute bid to stop the Andhra government from going ahead with the polls, Odisha filed a contempt petition in the Supreme Court on February 10. But after hearing the counsels for both sides on February 12, the apex court refused to pass a stay order on the polls the next day and restricted itself to asking Andhra to file a reply in a week’s time. The court, however, did say in its oral observation that if Odisha’s claim on the territory is proven, consequences will follow for Andhra.
Notwithstanding this concession, however, this was a setback of sorts for Odisha, which expected an injunction. Andhra has eyed this area for decades because of its rich deposits of several important minerals. It has wooed the people of the area by launching several welfare schemes for them. Residents of the disputed area have their names in...