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The DMK government’s legislation seeking exemption from NEET for examinations to medical and dental colleges in Tamil Nadu could well meet the same fate as ordinances and resolutions sent by previous governments on the issue. Recently, Chief Minister MK Stalin had met with state Governor RN Ravi and requested him to forward the legislation to the President for approval. 

The BJP-led NDA government at the Centre has steadfastly maintained that NEET would be mandatory, and no State can be exempted from the purview of the examinations. The DMK could be expected to do no more than passing the buck to the Centre as so far the Supreme Court had taken a stand of continuance of NEET tests.

The difference this time is the elaborate legal wrapper that the DMK government has prepared for its new Bill — Admission to  Undergraduate Medical Degree Courses Bill, 2021, adopted in the State Assembly with the support of all the parties except the BJP.

Chief Minister M K Stalin informed the State Assembly while introducing the Bill that the state government is moving this legislation as it has the competency, stating that admissions to “medical education courses are traceable to entry 25 of List III, Schedule VII of the Constitution”.

The Bill was designed on the basis of the recommendations of a high-level committee headed by Justice A K Rajan to look at various aspects and impact of NEET, including “whether the NEET is an equitable method for selection of students and also to consider the effect of mushrooming NEET coaching centres on the educational system in the state”.

The Bill was designed on the basis of the recommendations of a high-level committee headed by Justice A K Rajan to look at various aspects and impact of NEET

“The committee recommended that the state government shall pass an Act, like Tamil Nadu Admission in Professional Educational Institutions Act, 2006 (Tamil Nadu Act 3 of 2007),” Stalin stated in the Assembly. “Medical admissions based on the qualifying examination will in no way lower the standard of education, since the higher secondary syllabus is of sufficient standard,” he said.

However, the key question is whether the BJP is inclined to give up its rigid position on the issue. Allowing the Tamil Nadu government’s plea could open the floodgates and other States too seek similar exemption. On the other hand, all indications are that the BJP is firm in pushing through the NEET agenda.

The NEET issue could be the one big mountain that the DMK government will find hard to overcome. For years, the DMK while in the opposition kept taunting the AIADMK government on the issue, raising heat by referring to suicides by students. Now, the boot is on the other leg, and it is the turn of the DMK government to now face the heat in the face of opposition criticism.

The AIADMK has highlighted the fact that the DMK has not lived up to its election promise.

As for the DMK, it has created a massive platform to blame the NDA government at the Centre if the State legislation does not get Presidential assent. The DMK will claim that it is yet another proof that the BJP is acting against the interests of the State, further giving grist to its own pre-election campaign that the NDA government was vindictive towards Tamil Nadu.

The BJP will be on the defensive when it comes to countering the DMK propaganda but can only hope that with more and more students taking to tuition centres in the State the number of students from Tamil Nadu getting admission through NEET will increase substantially in the near future. It can then claim that while students are increasingly in favour of NEET, the DMK is trying to get political capital out of its opposition to the NEET exam.

That is how it could pan out in the next few months with the DMK blaming the BJP and its repressive policies towards the States, and the BJP accusing the DMK of playing to the gallery.

The BJP backtracked on the farmers issue only because crucial elections are round the corner in States like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, where the farmers are up in farms. This too was uncharacteristic of PM Narendra Modi who generally asks the opposition to bow down to his ‘My way or the highway’ kind of governance. That he had to eat humble pie and withdraw the three farm laws, earlier touted as revolutionary agricultural reforms,  was because of ground reports from UP and Punjab that the farmers would vote against his party in large numbers. The BJP has no such immediate political compulsion in Tamil Nadu, though it is trying hard to make a mark here. Therefore, the DMK would have to reckon with hostility and not expect hospitality.

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