Death by suicide of four aspirants ahead of the all-India medical entrance test NEET during the coronavirus pandemic reverberated in the Tamil Nadu assembly today as the ruling AIADMK, southern ally of the BJP, trained guns on Nalini Chidambram, an advocate and wife of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, for a pro-NEET verdict in 2017.
Ms Chidambaram had won a pro-NEET case in Supreme Court on behalf of Tamil Nadu students from CBSE schools who were against the decision to reserve 85 per cent seats in medical college for state board students.
For nearly a decade till then, Tamil Nadu had resisted using NEET results for admission to state's medical colleges, citing the system causes stress among students and was unfair on the poor students who can't afford private coaching. The state used to make admissions to medical colleges on the basis of marks received in the Class 12 board exams.
Tuesday's debate, initiated by Leader of Opposition and DMK Chief MK Stalin, turned into a high decibel war of words after the ruling party MLA Inbadurai blamed Nalini Chidambram for implementation of the common medical entrance test in the state.
Congress leaders who protested against the reference were evicted from the assembly and Chief Minister EK Palaniswami argued that the reference to Ms Chidambaram's "legal intervention" in the matter is a "fact".
"She (Nalini Chidambaram) is a lawyer and she has every right to represent her client. She is not bound by party's stand," Congress MLA Vijayadharani told NDTV.
Stating that the DMK regime had ensured NEET wasn't implemented in Tamil Nadu, Mr Stalin blamed the ruling AIADMK for its failure to get exemption and sought an assembly resolution against the Central government for not respecting its resolutions against NEET.
Rebutting his claims, Health Minister Dr Vijayabaskar said that NEET had evolved and was implemented in the first place during the Congress government with DMK as its ally. The Chief Minister then blamed the DMK for the death of 13 students in Tamil Nadu ahead of NEET.
With lives of four NEET aspirants lost last week, BJP's southern ally AIADMK is under immense pressure from the opposition to adopt an assembly resolution against Centre over NEET in its 3-day session that started Monday.
With eight months to the next assembly polls, use of NEET for admission to state colleges has turned into a political issue.
The DMK promises to scrap the exam if it is elected.
Health Minister Dr Vijayabaskar has argued that all other states, including those led by the Congress, have accepted NEET and it would be difficult to get an ordinance adopted like the way the state had done to pave way for lifting ban on Jallikattu - the traditional bull festival.