- Congress, the second largest party in Lok Sabha, has asked the Prime Minister for the post of the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
- Congress, the second largest party in Lok Sabha, has 52 seats. It is 3 short of the 55 seats (10% of all LS seats or minimum requirement for Quorum).
- Despite being short of the norms, the party called on the Prime Minister to give it the post of the Leader of the Opposition.
- They highlighted the Prime Minsiter’s speech on the first day of the 17th Lok Sabha that a vibrant Opposition was important in a parliamentary democracy.
- In the previous 16th Lok Sabha, the largest party in the Opposition (Congress) had 44 seats, and the party’s leader was not recognizd as LoP.
About Leader of Opposition
No provision for LoP in Constitution:
- There is no provision in the Constitution or even in the Lok Sabha Rules of Procedure in regard to the recognition of the Leader of Opposition (LoP).
By norm, second largest party with 10% of the seats was LoP:
- Right from the first Lok Sabha, the practice has been to recognise the leader of the largest party in Opposition as the LoP provided that party has a strength that is enough to constitute the quorum for a sitting of the House.
- This means that a party for LoP needs to have at least one-tenth of the total membership of the House.
- The total strength of the Lok Sabha is 545, so any party that has 55 members can get the post.
- However, the Congress, which is the second largest party in the House, has only 52 members, which is three short of the figure. So it cannot automatically be the leader of the Opposition.
The Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977:
- Until 1977, there were no emoluments and perks attached to the position of LoP.
- The Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977 formally recognised Opposition party and Leader of the Opposition (LoP) of the Lok Sabha.
- Definition of LoP: The 1977 Act defines LoP as that member of the House who is the “Leader in that House of the party in opposition to the Government having the greatest numerical strength and recognised as such by the Chairman/Speaker, as the case may be.”
- The Act extends to LoPs in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha the same official status, allowances and perks that are admissible to Cabinet Ministers.
- LoP in Lok Sabha subject to Speaker’s recognition:
- In the case of the Lok Sabha, recognition of LoP is subject to recognition of the leader by the Speaker.
- The Speaker’s decisions in this regard have so far been determined by Direction 121(c).
- It laid down one of the conditions for recognition of party or group as having “at least a strength equal to the quorum fixed to constitute a sitting of the House, that is one-tenth of the total number of members of the House”.
Way forward- Speaker may declare largest pre-poll alliance as Opposition party:
- One of the ways out recommended when no other party has 55 seats is to substitute ‘pre-poll alliance’ for ‘party’ or say ‘party or pre-poll alliance’.
- Pre-poll alliances are already being extended credibility and legitimacy in the matter of the President and Governors deciding on who to call first for forming the government in cases where no party secures a clear majority support in the House.
- If applied to the present case, the pre-poll alliance United Progressive Alliance which has 92 seats can get the LoP post.