Koraput: For the first time in the political history of Odisha, three rival parties – the BJD, Congress and the BJP – appeared in a single poster as they fielded consensus candidates in the three-tier panchayat elections in a border region disputed by Andhra Pradesh.
Such posters and banners bearing photographs of senior leaders of the three parties seeking votes for the consensus candidates are now seen in Kotia region of Koraput district where voting will be held on February 18.
The parties decided to select consensus candidates for sarpanch, samity member, and ward member posts in Kotia instead of going for elections in Kotia gram panchayat where Andhra Pradesh held panchayat elections a year ago despite Odisha’s objection citing a Supreme Court directive to maintain status quo in the disputed area.
The three parties have filed Mamata Jani as the candidate for Zilla Parishad member post of Zone-1 under Pottangi block. Apart from Kotia Gram Panchayat, the Zone-I also comprises GPs of Maliput, Pukali, Pottangi, Deopattangi, Gangrajpur, Nuaguda and Sunki. Jani is contesting as an independent candidate.
The troika has fielded consensus candidates in other posts of the region. Except the Zilla Parishad seats, candidates of other posts contest without party symbols.The three parties urged the local people not to field any candidate against the consensus nominee in the ZP post. One independent candidate person withdrew her candidature but another refused.
Now, the election will be fought between Mamata Jani and Tikai Gemel, another independent contestant.
“The villagers want me to win the election. They are all rallying behind me. I will fight and win this election,” Gemel said.
The Congress’ Koraput district president Meenakshi Bahinipati, BJD district president Ishwar Chandra Panigrahi, senior BJP leader and former MP Jayram Pangi were seen on one platform and seeking votes for Jani.
A banner having pictures of BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, BJP state president Samir Mohanty and Odisha Congress president Niranjan Patnaik was displayed at the meeting venue.
“This is for the first time that the pictures of all the party leaders are seen in one poster,” said BJD Koraput district president Ishwar Chandra Panigrahi.
Senior district leaders of the BJD, Congress and the BJP have also started visiting the villages in Kotia region seeking votes for Jani.
While there are 5,197 eligible voters Kotia Gram Panchayat, the number of other voters in other GPs are 17,121.
In Kotia GP, 14 people including 13 consensus candidates are contesting for 13 wards while seven contestants are trying their luck for one Sarpanch post. One of these seven candidates is the consensus nominee.
The dispute over the ownership of 21 of the 28 villages under Kotia gram panchayat had first reached the Supreme Court in 1968. In 2006, the apex court held that inter-state boundaries did not fall within its jurisdiction and only the Parliament could resolve them, as it imposed a permanent injunction on the disputed area.
In August last year, the Odisha government deployed police and erected barricades in Kotia after the Andhra Pradesh administration attempted to launch several schemes in the area. The neighboring state had announced the results of the panchayat polls it held in Kotia.