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Kotia Issue Needs Political Solution

Bhubaneswar: Ever since neighboring Andhra Pradesh conducted rural polls in the Kotia cluster of villages under Potangi block of Koraput district in Odisha territory, all eyes are focused on the Supreme Court. Even the State Government in Odisha also preferred judicial intervention as the only means to resolve the long standing dispute with Andhra Pradesh which has all along been attempting to capture parts of the Kotia cluster of villages, the reason being best known to neighbouring southern state. But, the local leaders in Odisha without having any specific or scientific evidence make allegations that Andhra Pradesh eyes on Kotia area due to its rich mineral resources, even some of them have claimed that the region has reserves of gold in its belly.   

The issue has created a statewide hue and cry and the issues debated several times in the State Legislative Assembly. While the ruling BJD has all along been defending the State Government and supporting its move seeking judicial intervention, the opposition BJP and Congress are demanding convening of all-party meetings to take an unanimous decision on the sensitive matter. The ruling party, apparently due to its brute majority in the Assembly, does not show any inclination to take opposition into confidence, even as it is a need of the hour. There seems to be nothing wrong if the State Government unites all the political forces and gets ready for a fight with Andhra Pradesh which is trespassing into Odisha territory and flexing its muscle.

A delegation of the BJP led by Leader of Opposition Pradipta Kumar Naik and its State President Samir Mohanty has, meanwhile, visited the Kotia area and talked to the local residents there. What is wrong to gather some support from the BJP which has the firsthand experience in the issue? This apart, the Koraput’s Congress MP Saptagiri Ulaka has also come forward to support the State Government in its fight against Andhra Pradesh. However, the State Government is not inclined to take his support. As if this is not enough, the State Government, which has all along been accused by opposition parties of being run by bureaucrats, also did not unite the local people’s representatives like MLAs, MPs, and grassroot level leaders on the Kotia issue. A positive approach to take all people’s representatives into confidence will certainly be beneficial for the state.

Though it is not a war between Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, it is a fact that we have already entered into a legal battle with the neighboring state for its aggressive and illegal posture of trespassing into our territory. If it is not a physical war with Andhra Pradesh, the situation is certainly a confrontation, albeit in legal format. It should not be forgotten that before going to have a fight, Odisha should have a well-planned strategy, which in other words is called ‘war policy’. The regional party like BJD which has never lost any electoral battle since its inception in 1997, is well aware as to how to prepare a strategy to defeat the rival, it may be a mighty political rival like Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo or the rich state like Andhra Pradesh.  

While the entire state and its people are now looking at the Supreme Court for a settlement of the issue, all forget that the issues can also be resolved through political intervention or dialogue. We can unite to oppose the draft bylaws of the National Monuments Authority (NMA) which prevents beautification of important and ancient shrines like Lord Jagannath and Shree Lingaraj. The ruling BJD and opposition BJP MPs have successfully stalled implementation of the NMA bylaws by fighting for a common cause after they met the Union Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel. But, what exactly prevents the BJD and BJP MPs from taking the Kotia issue and Andhra Pradesh’s misadventure to the attention of Union Home Minister Amit Shah? 

Has any Odisha MP so far raised the Kotia issue in the Parliament? Rather, the State Government’s move to the Apex Court has created an opportunity for the rival Andhra Pradesh to avoid the issue by saying that the matter is ‘subjudice’. There are many instances which are not settled by the court, but with dialogues.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s silence over this extremely sensitive issue is indeed very intriguing even as he has raised voice against the same Andhra Pradesh in Polavaram multi-purpose project, in the past. What exactly prevents Naveen from raising the issue in the national platforms like the NITI Aayog meeting or for that matter at the meeting of chief ministers in the National Development Council where the Prime Minister should be present?  Surprisingly, Naveen has not so far spoken to his Andhra Pradesh counterpart YS Jagan Reddy, who is considered as an admirer of Odisha Chief Minister. Naveen does not hesitate to write letters to all the Chief Ministers in India on women reservation bills, but when it comes to expose Andhra Pradesh’s attempt of aggression before other Chief Ministers, he is remaining tight lipped.

It is high time the State Government made a political move apart from its petition in the Supreme Court. The State Government should at the same time send across the message to the entire country that Odisha loves peace and cordial relationship with all its neighbors. But, how can a State remain silent when one of its neighbors attempts to create disturbance in its territory? The state should also give a clear message to Andhra Pradesh, “You may carry on your progress but please do not poke your nose in Odisha’s territory.”

Andhra Pradesh Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan too has a major role to play in the Kotia issue and there is no justification to remain silent and allow Andhra Pradesh to do mischief in Odisha territory. Mr.Harichandan now has to maintain a balance between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha for the betterment of both the states.

Meanwhile, the neighboring state has started claiming that it held panchayat polls in 2013 and general elections since 1952. If at all this has been done, this should be considered as a violation and not a credit for the neighboring state.

Out of the 30 districts of Odisha, 14 have common borders with other states. Odisha’s border dispute is mostly confined to two states like Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.

Odisha has borders with Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh also. But, there is no such trouble with these states. The Kotia issue is aggravated because of the aggressive approach of Jaggan Reddy Government. The Government of AP should refrain from making such noise and luring the inhabitants of the three villages in Odisha territory in order to have peace, and these words should be spelled out by Naveen to Reddy in all equivocal manner. If the border tension with China and Pakistan could be managed peacefully through dialogue, why not between Odisha and Andhra Pradesh? While a political solution to this problem is the need of the hour, the Odisha Government is expected to act fast on this front before the situation slips out of hand.