The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, rejected the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) plea to grant it the Leader of Opposition (LoP) status in the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which it had refused in 2017 since it was then in coalition with Shiv Sena.
"The LoP post cannot be claimed on mere change of heart. This is an everyday phenomenon in politics. Today, you may be friends, tomorrow not. Legal rights cannot be dependent on relations between the parties," ruled a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde, which also comprised Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
On January 21, the court had issued notice to the Maharashtra government and the Mumbai Mayor on a petition by BJP corporator Prabhakar Tukaram Shinde that he must get the post by virtue of being leader of the second largest party. Shinde had challenged a Bombay High Court verdict on September 21, holding that Ravi Raja of the Congress will continue to be LoP as appointed in 2017.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Shinde, told the court that the Congress is a part of the ruling coalition in Maharashtra and still it is enjoying the status of the LoP in the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai.
The bench declined to entertain his line of argument that the Congress, which is in coalition with Shiv Sena in the state, should not get the LoP post. The party is in power in the state. This does not mean it will be treated in power in the civic bodies as well, it said.
In the 2017 municipal elections, the BJP got 82 seats. Shinde, who is leader of the BJP group in the municipal corporation, submitted that the political dynamics have changed in Maharashtra after the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition began to govern the state after the 2019 assembly elections.
Shinde's contention was that BJP had voluntarily given up the LoP status. His petition said, "In the present case, the BJP group, the second largest, which had earlier decided to stay neutral in the BMC, has now decided to take over the role of the principal opposition group. The dynamics pertaining to the party with the greatest numerical strength in the opposition has changed with the BJP group replacing the Congress group."