Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan’s visit to boundary village in Odisha triggers political controversy

Both Odisha and Andhra Pradesh governments have been claiming their jurisdictional authority over Kotia Gram Panchayat 

Updated - April 02, 2023 08:41 am IST

Published - April 02, 2023 04:39 am IST - BHUBANESWAR

Union Minister for Education, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan visits during Utkal Divas (Odisha foundation day) celebrations with villagers, at Kotia of Koraput district, on April 1, 2023.

Union Minister for Education, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan visits during Utkal Divas (Odisha foundation day) celebrations with villagers, at Kotia of Koraput district, on April 1, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Union Minister of Education and Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan visited Phatsineru, a village in Kotia Gram Panchayat of Koraput district to celebrate Odisha’s Foundation Day on Saturday, escalating Opposition charge that the Biju Janata Dal Government utterly failed to protect State’s jurisdictional integrity.

Both Odisha and Andhra Pradesh governments have been claiming their jurisdictional authority over Kotia Gram Panchayat which comprises 21 villages during past five decades. The two States have challenged each other’s administrative control over Kotia in Supreme Court, which ordered status quo first in 1968 and again in 2006.

In 2021, Andhra Pradesh had set up voting booths in Kotia villages and held direct panchayat elections in some villages. A year later, Odisha held elections to three-tier Panchayati Raj institutions.

Six Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs accompanied Mr. Pradhan during the celebration of Odisha’s Foundation Day at Phatsineru.

The Biju Janata Dal also held a public meeting at Ganjeipadar village of Kotia Gram Panchayat to celebrate the occasion. Chandrasekhar Majhi, chairperson of Special Development Council of Koraput; Nabarangpur MP Ramesh Chandra Majhi and other BJD leaders were part of the celebration.

“I feel happy to be visiting Kotia, a bordering panchayat of Odisha. I have reviewed different projects being executed in Phatsineru village and interacted with villagers,” said Mr. Pradhan. During his visit, the Union Minister was confronted by Andhra Pradesh government officials, who asked him to leave the place.

The visit of Mr. Pradhan assumes significance as the Naveen Patnaik government has been constantly drawing flak for not being able to protect the villages. Neighbouring States such as Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal have been repeatedly claiming administrative control over some Odisha villages.

Thus, the visit appeared to have not gone down well with the BJD. In a long three-page press statement, the BJD said, “where was Mr. Pradhan when Odisha government was fighting with Andhra Pradesh Government for Kotia? Why did Mr. Pradhan keep mum during legal battle for Kotia in Supreme Court? The Union Minister has only tried to mislead people by doling out false promises.” The party also provided a long list of incomplete projects belonging to Central government.

Former Nabarangpur MP Pradip Majhi even went on to accuse Mr. Pradhan of conspiring to shift Central University of Odisha from Koraput district.

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