Mallikarjun Kharge, who heads the Congress in the Lok Sabha, led a delegation of UPA partners to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to urge her to grant the Leader of the Opposition’s post to the alliance on the ground that it was “pre-poll” combination.
The Lok Sabha speaker is expected to give her ruling on the leader of the opposition’s position before the commencement of the budget session of Parliament on July 7. There are strong indications that Ms Mahajan, 71, will go strictly by the rule book before taking a call on demands by the Congress and its alliance partners to designate one of their members as the leader of the opposition.
Rules governing the appointment of the leader of the opposition and past precedence, according to sources in the Lok Sabha secretariat, render the Congress ineligible for staking claim to the post. According to rules, a party must have at least 10% of the total strength of the Lok Sabha, or 55 MPs, to be considered eligible for the position.
In the 16th Lok Sabha, the Congress has 44 MPs, and 59 along with its allies. That, according to these sources, makes it difficult for the Lok Sabha speaker to accede to the Congress’ demand.
The sources also cite past precedence. There was no leader of the opposition in 1984, when the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress won a thumping majority in the Lok Sabha. The Congress cornered 404 of the 543 seats, and the largest opposition party was CPM, with 22 seats.
The speaker’s decision is likely to have a direct bearing on the selection process for the posts of the Lokpal, chief vigilance commissioner (CVC), and the chief information commissioner (CIC). The leader of the opposition is part of the collegium formed for filling up these posts.