MUMBAI: Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday evening said the Maharashtra Public Service Commission's (MPSC) preliminary examination would be held by March 22.
Earlier in the day, the MPSC announced that the exam for government jobs which was to take place on March 14 (Sunday) has been postponed on account of rising coronavirus cases.
It sparked protests with students blocking a road in Pune.
"The preliminary examination will be held within eight days from March 14. The announcement of new dates will be made tomorrow, this is my promise to you," Thackeray said in a televised message.
Earlier, the decision of postponement was announced by the Relief and Rehabilitation Department in a circular.
But Congress leader and Rehabilitation Minister Vijay Wadettiwar claimed he was kept in the dark by officials.
"The decision has been taken at the secretary level without even discussing the issue with me. I know nothing about it. There will be inquiry into this matter," he tweeted.
The examination was to take place in April last year but was repeatedly delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan questioned the wisdom of the decision to defer it.
Speaking to reporters in Pune, he said, "If the government can permit weddings, hold budget session and conduct exams for the health department, then it is wrong to cancel the MPSC examination."
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis demanded that the decision be reversed.
"The exams have been pushed forward already and it would result in the loss of opportunity for many students who invest their best years in preparation," he tweeted.
Rohit Pawar, NCP MLA and grandson of party chief Sharad Pawar, tweeted that the examination can be conducted in a fair and safe manner.
News of postponement sparked protest by hundreds of MPSC aspirants in Pune who blocked Shastri Road in the city.
Pune has emerged as a big hub of coaching classes for MPSC and UPSC examinations in the last few years.
Mahesh Bade, one of the aspirants, demanded roll-back of the decision.
"Is the government waiting for students to commit suicide?" he asked.
Later, after Thackeray announced that the exam will be held before March 22, Bade said the candidates wanted that it be held on March 14 itself.
Bade also claimed that a 28-year-old MPSC aspirant from Yavatmal who was among protesters suffered a heart attack and was admitted to a private hospital and was in ICU now.
Another aspirant said the exam was first scheduled to take place in April 2020, then it was postponed till October, then to March and now it has been again deferred.
BJP MLC Gopinath Padalkar who joined in the protest was detained by police as they tried to disperse the students.