No clarity yet on Leader of Oppn

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Cong can’t claim position, NDA to decide if it wants to offer post

It is not yet clear if there would be a leader of opposition in the 16th Lok Sabha after Congress party’s debacle in the recently held elections as it does not have the requisite number of 10 per cent of the total 543 seats in the lower house of Parliament.

Congress secured 44 seats against 55, or 10 per cent of the seats in the Lower House, required to claim the position.

It is now left to the largesse of the BJP-led NDA government if it wants to make somebody from Congress as the leader of the opposition, a cabinet rank post, because as per rules, the party cannot now stake a claim.

But opinion is divided among constitutional experts. Former attorney-general Soli Sorabjee, well known constitutional expert, maintains “of course there will be a leader of opposition, after all it is the Lok Sabha.

“But I think it is ridiculous that someone could try to lay claim to that position on the basis of a block of MPs, as some leaders seem to be doing,” he said apparently referring to reports that AIADMK, BJD and TMC were trying come together to stake a claim for the post.

The three regional parties together have 91 seats in the Lok Sabha, which fulfils the 10 per cent requirement and is much ahead of the Congress on numbers.

“There have been precedents in the past when the opposition has been too thin but I need to re-examine the subject before saying anything further,'' he told Financial Chronicle.

According to former secretary general of Lok Sabha, Subhash C Kashyap, the post of leader of opposition can go only to the leader of a political party and not to the leader of an alliance, whether formed before the election or after.

Hence, neither the Congress, as the head of the pre-poll United Progressive Alliance (UPA), nor a post-poll grouping of regional parties in the new Lok Sabha can stake claim to the post.

While Congress-led UPA has 60 seats, the NDA headed by the BJP has 334.

Kashyap reportedly said the only consolation for Congress is that no other grouping can claim the post. Even if the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Trinamool Congress and the Biju Janata Dal come together, the leader of the group will not be entitled to the post.

This is not the first time that the Lok Sabha might be without a leader of the opposition. Between 1952 to 1969, no party qualified for the post. Between 1980-84 there was no leader of opposition as no party had the requisite numbers.

Ram Subhag Singh of Congress (O) was the first leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha after the party split in 1969. The other faction was led by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

During the Janata government rule from 1977 onwards, YB Chavan and then C M Stephen (both Congress) were leader of opposition. When the Janta Party split, after which Charan Singh became prime minsiter, Jagjivan Ram from the Janata party became leader of opposition.


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