Leader of Opposition issue: Lok Sabha Speaker rejects Congress’ demand
NEW DELHI: Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on
Tuesday formally rejected the Congress’ demand for being accorded the status of
Leader of Opposition in the House. “I have gone by rules and tradition,” she
“A letter has gone (to the Congress),” official
sources said. Congress president and parliamentary party leader Sonia Gandhi
had earlier written to Mahajan seeking the status of the Leader of Opposition
for Mallikarjun Kharge, the party’s floor leader in the Lok Sabha.
Though the ruling dispensation’s inclination to deny
the vital post to the Congress was well-known, the Speaker also obtained the
opinion of Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi, who was understood to have
maintained that the Congress did not possess the requisite numbers to claim the
The Congress has only 44 members in the Lok Sabha.
Though it is the second largest party after the BJP (282 members), it still
falls short of the 55 members — 10 per cent of the total strength of the Lok
Sabha — needed for staking claim to the post.
The Speaker was understood to have pointed this out to
the Congress. Mahajan also cited precedents of 1980 and 1984, when there was no
recognised Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha. The Congress happened to be
in power then.
Reacting to the decision, Kharge said he would consult
the party high command and the AICC legal cell before giving his opinion.
“Being recognised as Leader of the Opposition is one thing and functioning as
floor leader is another,” he said.
The status of Leader of Opposition gains significance
in the context of requirements of law relating to appointments of statutory
bodies like Central Information Commission (CIC). The appointments of CIC and
Central Vigilance Commissioner are done by the President on the basis of the
recommendation of a three-member committee comprising the Prime Minister, Home
Minister and the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
The chairperson and members of Lokpal are selected by
a committee headed by the Prime Minister with four other members — Lok Sabha
Speaker, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or a
judge of the apex court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist who could be
nominated by the President or any other member.
The Speaker had said on Monday that she does not have
any personal discretion and that the House can change rules if it felt it was
“A Speaker is supposed to follow rules. I have to go
by rules. There are ‘Directions of the Speaker’ which mandate 10 per cent
strength for a party in the Lok Sabha to be recognised as Leader of the
“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
anything on this,” Mahajan said.