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Congress demand for leader of opposition rejected

The Congress demand for being given the status of the leader of opposition (LoP) to its House chief Mallikarjun Kharge in Lok Sabha was on Tuesday rejected by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.

“I have gone by rules and tradition,” she told PTI on her decision not to recognise the leader.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi had written to Mahajan for the status.

The Speaker had taken the opinion of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi who had said the Congress did not have numbers so its floor leader could not be granted the status. The Congress is the second-largest group in the Lok Sabha, with 44 seats after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s 282.

The Speaker has conveyed to the Congress she was not in a position to give the leader the status because the party fell short of the minimum 55 seats required for staking claim to the post.

Mahajan is said to have cited precedents in 1980 and 1984 when there was no leader of opposition.

The leader of opposition in both the Houses of Parliament enjoys the status of a cabinet minister. Kharge said he would consult the high command and the All India Congress Committee’s legal cell before giving his opinion.

“Being recognised as the leader of opposition is one thing and functioning as the floor leader is another.”

The status of LoP gains significance in the context of requirements of law relating to appointments like the Central Information Commissioner (CIC). The appointments of CIC and Central Vigilance Commissioner are done by the President on the basis of recommendations of a panel of the prime minister, home minister and LoP. The chairperson and members of the Lok Pal are selected by a panel headed by the prime minister and four members, Lok Sabha Speaker, LoP, Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him, and a jurist who could be nominated by the President or any other member.

The Speaker had said yesterday that she does not have any personal discretion and that the House can change rules if it felt it was necessary.

“A Speaker is supposed to follow rules. I have to go by rules. There are ‘Directions of the Speaker’ which mandate ten per cent strength for a party in Lok Sabha to be recognised as Leader of the Opposition.

“If anybody wants a change in them, then a committee can be formed to look into them. But I need to follow the rules. I cannot do any thing on this,” Mahajan had told PTI.

She had said that her decision on granting the status of LoP to any party was on the basis of the directions, which guide the functioning of the Lok Sabha chief, and precedents followed by others.

“The directions of the Speaker are very clear to decide on the LoP. I also took legal opinion before deciding on the matter,” the Lok Sabha Speaker said.

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