New Delhi : Apparently convinced that the Speaker Sumitra Mahajan is in no mood to recognize Mallikarjun Kharge, who heads the Congress party in the Lok Sabha, as the leader of opposition, the UPA has now moved to claim that status for itself.
Kharge led a UPA delegation to Mahajan ahead of the budget session of Parliament that begins on July 7 with a demand that this status be conferred on the alliance
There are two views on the issue of the naming of the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha. One view is that the party claiming that status should have strength of at least one-tenth of the total strength — 55 in this case.
The other view is that this number is not mandatory and the largest opposition party, irrespective of the strength, is eligible for this post. There are different laws which are cited for these provisions.
But Mahajan has indicated that going by the rule book the Congress with 44 members in the Lok Sabha does not qualify for this status, and it is this reading of the situation that has prompted Kharge to muster up the support of the entire UPA coalition, which is a pre-poll alliance and has a strength of 59.
The leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha is a part of the collegiums for the appointment of the Lokpal, the chief vigilance commissioner, and the chief information commissioner. It is pointed out that in the absence of a leader of opposition, these posts shall not see the bipartisan consultation process that has been institutionalized so far. It is also pointed out that the LOP in the Lok Sabha is a position that enjoys the rank of a cabinet minister and plays a significant role in the bipartisan consultations regarding the working of the Lok Sabha.
Even though the Congress has a reduced strength in the Lok Sabha, its numbers in the Rajya Sabha are adequate to allow its leader Ghulam Nabi Azad to have this status.
This renewed effort notwithstanding, there is little likelihood that Mahajan would relent, and the 16th Lok Sabha may have to function without a leader of opposition.