Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday wrote an open letter opposing the Narendra Modi government’s decision to hold NEET and JEE exams amid the coronavirus pandemic, reported PTI. He asked who will be held responsible, if students end up contracting Covid-19 that has infected over 33 lakh people in the country so far.

“Funny and illogical things are being spread by the BJP that when people can come out for other work, why can’t they give exams,” Yadav said. “It has forgotten that people are moving out in compulsion and even those who want to stay at home to save themselves are now being forced to come out of their homes in the name of examinations.”

The Samajwadi Party chief alleged that the BJP was only concerned about its vote bank and was acting against the students in a “revengeful manner”. “It appears that the BJP has come to know that the youth dealing with the unemployment problem would no longer vote for them,” he said. “Therefore, it is acting in a revengeful manner against the youth and their guardians.”

Yadav also cited the logistical hurdles the students will face in reaching exam centres, which are often located in different cities, at a time when public transport services are largely suspended to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, meanwhile, spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over phone and requested him to postpone the exams, PTI reported. Patnaik spoke about the difficulties the student will face in appearing for their entrances at a time when the state is gripped by the pandemic as well as the floods.

The communication between Patnaik and Modi came two days after the chief minister wrote to Union education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, appealing him to consider postponing JEE and NEET.

The Centre has been facing escalating demands from political leaders and student organisations to defer the examinations. They have argued that the current circumstances are not conducive to hold the tests. However, the government claims any kind of rearrangement in the exam schedule would waste an academic year of the students and jeopardize their careers. Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal on Tuesday also said that the Centre was under pressure from parents and students to conduct the tests.

On Wednesday, the Congress announced that it will stage countrywide protests against the Centre’s “mindless and dictatorial” decision to go ahead with the entrance tests, despite the alarming rise in coronavirus cases. “While holding exams during Covid crisis has put students in a state of extreme mental stress, the grim flood situation in states like Assam and Bihar will further put students from those states at a severe disadvantage,” the party had said.

Earlier in the day, several chief ministers of non-BJP states held a virtual meeting to strategise their next course of action. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee suggested they should jointly move the Supreme Court.