Stepping into the Leader of Opposition (LoP) controversy for the first time, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday asserted that her party must be given the post.
“We are the single largest opposition party and we have a pre-poll alliance. We are entitled to the post,” she said. The party is also getting its memorandum to the Lok Sabha Speaker ready with signature of 64 UPA MPs to show it has adequate strength to claim the coveted post.
The move comes after the BJP pointed out that the Congress is making noise even before making any formal claim for the coveted post.
“The Congress wrote to Rajya Sabha chairman to claim the LoP slot in the upper house. They haven’t done this in Lok Sabha because they know they don’t have the numbers,” a source said.
“Congress sources added that the original draft of the memo may be reduced from eight pages to three and focus on a few key points. Former parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath will be handling the matter.
Lok Sabha sources pointed out that while the Congress now cites the 1977 law that gives the LoP post to the largest opposition party, it had denied the LoP to the largest opposition group in 1980 and 1984 despite the law being in force.
But the Congress may argue that after the amendments in Representation of People Act in 1988, the requirements for a LoP status have changed.
The directions that a party could be given LoP status if it has at least 10% strength of the House were also done away with from the 11th Lok Sabha.
The former solicitor general had advised the Congress to go to court over the row but many in the party are not in favour.
Government sources indicate that the judiciary may not have the powers to interfere with the functioning of the Speaker. “She is even entitled not to respond to any court summons,” a senior minister said.
But the party Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said, “No ruling of the Speaker can substitute or override an Act of Parliament.”