Kotia: A Village Caught Between Two States

Preeti Bali / 1:15 pm / April 10, 2024

Kotia, a cluster of villages nestled along the border between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, finds itself thrust into the spotlight every election season – not for its political clout, but for a peculiar privilege enjoyed by its residents. Kotia’s voters possess a unique advantage: they can cast their ballots in elections held in both states.

Caught in a Territorial Tug-of-War

This unusual situation stems from a long-standing territorial dispute between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. The bone of contention? The very land on which Kotia resides. Both sides lay claim to the region, citing historical documents and land surveys as evidence. This dispute has been simmering since 1968, when it landed at the Supreme Court’s doorstep. However, the apex court deemed itself powerless to intervene in interstate boundary disputes, leaving the resolution to Parliament.

Double Voting: A Legal Gray Area

With the legal battle reaching a stalemate, the issue of double voting rights remains unresolved. Over 2,500 voters spread across Kotia’s 21 tribal villages possess voter IDs, ration cards, and even pension cards issued by both Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. While Andhra’s election officials consider this practice illegal, the residents of Kotia continue to leverage this dual identity for their benefit.

Development Strategies: A Tale of Two Approaches

As elections approach, both Andhra Pradesh and Odisha employ contrasting strategies to woo the voters of Kotia. Odisha focuses on infrastructure development, showcasing newly built concrete roads connecting villages to Kotia. Additionally, schools, a primary health center, and a security outpost have been established. Andhra Pradesh, on the other hand, adopts a more financial approach, offering lucrative welfare programs.

A Community Divided by Geography and Benefits

Kotia’s unique geography plays a role in resident’s voting preferences. Those residing in the lower regions tend to gravitate towards Andhra Pradesh due to its higher welfare payouts. Conversely, those dwelling in the uphill areas seem to favor Odisha. Interestingly, most residents converse in the ‘Kui’ dialect, with some possessing fluency in both Telugu and Odia, reflecting the region’s cultural blend.

Living on the Edge: A Double-Edged Sword

The residents of Kotia seem content with their dual identity. Their possession of two sets of government documents allows them to benefit from various schemes offered by both states. For instance, Andhra Pradesh’s significantly higher monthly pension and annual financial incentives hold immense appeal compared to what Odisha offers. However, this double voting privilege remains a legal ambiguity, adding another layer of complexity to the ongoing territorial dispute between the two states.

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