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NEET Row in Bihar: BJP, RJD Trade Accusations Over Key Accused

Protests against the NEET exams, sparked by allegations of leaked question papers and preferential marking, have escalated into a nasty political feud, particularly in Bihar, where four individuals informed police the paper was leaked 24 hours before the exam, on May 4.

The four have been identified as NEET candidate Anurag Yadav, his uncle Sikandar Yadavendu, and two others: Nitish Kumar and Amit Anand. Mr Yadav claimed his uncle provided him the leaked paper – which “had the same questions (as) in the exam” – a day in advance.

The uncle informed cops that Mr Kumar and Mr Anand offered the paper, which sorts applicants for admission to undergraduate medical colleges across the country, for ₹32 lakh.

Bihar Police’s Economic Offences Wing is, for now, handling all inquiries.

The accused’s claims have triggered a tussle between the Bharatiya Janata Party (part of the government led by the Janata Dal (United)) and the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal.

At the centre of that tussle is each side’s ‘connection’ to accused individuals, including Sikandar Yadavendu, whom the authorities believe is the brain behind the operation.

The BJP’s Vijay Sinha, who is also the Deputy Chief Minister, has claimed Mr Yadavendu is a relative of RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav’s aide, Pritam Yadav.

Mr Sinha has red-flagged reports that say Mr Yadavendu was staying at a guesthouse owned by the NHAI, or National Highways Authority of India, which reports to the centre’s Road Transport Ministry.

“Sikandar Yadavendu is a close relative of Tejashwi Yadav’s PA Pritam Kumar. NHAI guesthouse was booked for Sikandar’s sister, Reena, and her son, Anurag, for May 4. A phone number and a minister’s name were mentioned in the diary…”

The RJD, meanwhile, has accused the BJP and JDU of links with other accused.

Apart from allegations of leaked question papers, last week the NTA, or National Testing Agency, a central body that conducts competitive entrance tests, told the Supreme Court grace marks awarded to 1,563 who took the exam will be cancelled. They can now accept old scores or take a re-test June 23.

Concerns over marks erupted after a surprisingly high number of candidates scored 100 per cent, i.e., got 720 on 720. Petitions were filed before the top court seeking redress.

The court ripped into the NTA; “If there’s even 0.001 per cent (chance of) negligence on anyone’s part, it should be dealt with,” it said, warning the agency it expects “timely action”.

As many as 24 lakh men and women sat for the NEET exam on May 5.

Apart from Bihar, the row over the NEET has also turned political in other states and at the centre, with the Congress-led INDIA bloc targeting the ruling BJP. 

And the BJP – which edged past the post in the April-May general election thanks to its allies – must now also deal with the UGC-NET exam, a qualifying exam for appointments to professorial posts in colleges and universities, and for fellowships, being cancelled.

The UGC-NET is also conducted by the NTA and was scrapped for the year after the Union Education Ministry expressed concerns its integrity may have been compromised.

Over 11 lakh students had registered for this exam.

Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, and Mallikarjun Kharge, and Samajwadi Party boss Akhilesh Yadav, the Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi, and the Trinamool’s Saket Gokhale have all hit out at the BJP on this topic.

All of this comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi – in power thanks to 28 seats won by Bihar’s JDU and Andhra Pradesh’s TDP – preps for the first parliament session of his new-look coalition government.

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