There is a tale in Valmiki Ramayana about king Trishanku who had this great urge to enter the heaven alive. Rishi Vishwamitra helped him reach the gates of heaven, but Indra rejected the illegal entry and tossed him out. The slighted ascetic managed to arrest Trishanku’s free fall in space but let him hang upside down. The king continues to stay in limbo, though in a customised heaven around him, so the story goes.
Trishanku is how at least three sections of people in this part of the country find themselves in now, with a New Delhi twist. For starters, higher education aspirants find themselves in a Trishanku situation after the Madras High Court struck down a Tamil Nadu government order (GO) that carved out 85 per cent quota for state board students for medical courses, as an antidote for the arguably skewed National Eligibility cum Entrance Test or NEET.
The Edappadi K Palaniswami government was always uneasy about the quota, which was why it introduced the GO at the last moment. But the chief minister was advised to do so by no less a person than Union health minister J P Nadda when he pressed him to approve two bills adopted by the Assembly to exempt the state from NEET.
While on a visit to Chennai on April 15, Nadda had said: “Tamil Nadu government feels that those from a rural background will not be able to adjust to the NEET admission process. I have told them they have full freedom to have their own reservation policy.” He underlined that the state government could easily take the quota call, as it was a “state policy programme”, adding it could give “special reservation” to such students.
Nadda’s workaround, however, failed to stand judicial scrutiny. In his scathing verdict, Justice Ravichandrababu said: “The impugned reservation amounts to discrimination among equals… It is an arbitrary exercise of power that it is totally unreasonable. Under the guise of level playing, it makes the equals unequals.”
Though the state government intends to file an appeal, medical admissions have been left hanging, which will have a cascading effect on engineering and veterinary courses. Remember the last date for completing medical counselling is this month-end. Failure to wrap it up by then would force students to suffer from attendance shortage. Not an ideal way to begin an academic year.
Two, with the presidential elections out of the way, the countdown has perhaps begun for the ruling party to get out of its Trishanku mode and get real about intra-party unity, which is being actively encouraged by Delhi. The sticking point of course in the status of the V K Sasikala clan in the party. While she is the general secretary, her nephew T T V Dhinakaran is the deputy general secretary. The O Panneerselvam group wants the clan purged to consider unity but the ruling faction has its reservations. And Sasikala’s brother V K Divaharan, who is said to have lost Dhinakaran’s post by a whisker, is trying to play peacemaker.
The ruling faction appears to be buying time, waiting for the Election Commission of India to decide on Sasikala’s election as general secretary. If the ECI holds it illegal, all decisions taken by her, including Dhinakaran’s post, would be nullified, which would open the unity door.
At stake also is the party’s Two Leaves symbol, for which loads of affidavits have been submitted before the ECI by both sides. It was his symbol pursuit that prodded Dhinakaran to allegedly use conman Sukesh Chandrashekhar to swing the deal with nameless EC officials. While Sukesh was recently chargesheeted by the Delhi Police for the offence, a supplementary chargesheet is expected to name Dhinakaran.
But both factions seem to be running out of time. If they can’t make up their minds within the next few weeks, the window of opportunity could be shut forever. Which is perhaps why civic elections in the State are getting delayed. Going into the local body elections without a patch-up and without funds controlled by the clan could give the DMK-led alliance ample power at the grassroots level on a platter. That is a risk the ruling party would not want to take. Though DMK working president M K Stalin is by no means a mass leader, his is the most organised party as of now.
And finally, three recently nominated BJP legislators in Puducherry find themselves as Trishankus, though Lt Governor Kiran Bedi went by the rulebook in suggesting their names to Delhi and got its approval. What she lost sight of though was the spirit of the law since even chief minister V Narayanasamy was not in the loop when the nominations were made. No wonder speaker V Vaithilingam is refusing to acknowledge the new entrants. If indications from a nominated MLA are anything to go by, an Arunachal-like situation is in the works in Puducherry. Law, as they say, is an ass.
Deputy Resident Editor, Tamil Nadu