On February 2, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi sparked outrage when he slammed the BJP, claiming that the party cannot see India as its “kingdom” because it is a union of states. Gandhi emphasised the necessity of cooperative federalism, claiming that India has only been ruled through dialogue for decades. Amit Malviya, the in-charge of the BJP’s national information and technology department, took to Twitter shortly after, to say that the Congress MP’s claim that it was “not a nation but a union of states” was “very problematic and dangerous”. He claimed that the Congress leader hasn’t “comprehended the Constitution”.
The furore over federalism has also reignited an old debate around the distribution of legislative, executive and administrative powers between the Centre and states and the much-contested Concurrent List in the backdrop of the farm laws, NEET exams and health sector, among others. It is pertinent to mention that the Concurrent List includes subjects of common interest to both the Union and state governments. Education, including technical, medical, universities, population control and family planning, criminal law, animal cruelty prevention, wildlife, animal protection, and forests, are topics on the Concurrent List. The Concurrent List lists 52 items found in the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Union List, State List, and Concurrent List are the three lists that make up the legislative sector. However, education was earlier the states’ responsibility and put in the Concurrent List only during the Emergency (1975-1977).
The NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test conducted for granting admission in medical UG seats of India) has once again taken centre stage in Tamil Nadu with a high-pitched campaign for the urban local body elections centred around the Concurrent List. NEET has been a sensitive issue in the southern state since 2013 when all medical entrance tests were merged into a single national-level examination. The Tamil Nadu government had formed the Justice A.K. Rajan Committee to investigate the impact of NEET on medical admissions in the state. According to the report, NEET has “obviously damaged” socio-economic representation in MBBS and further medical studies, favouring primarily the wealthy.