West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has initiated talks with her Tamil Nadu counterpart J Jayalalithaa, triggering speculation that they could attempt an Opposition bloc in the Lok Sabha to protect the interests of their states.
In Delhi, some BJP leaders dropped hints that Biju Janata Dal (BJD) from Odisha, which has 20 MPs in the new LS, could also join this club. BJD chief Naveen Patnaik shares a good rapport with both and could raise the strength of the three-party bloc to 91 MPs.
“This block could lay claim on the post of the Leader of the Opposition,” a BJP leader said.
The AIADMK won 37 of 39 seats in Tamil Nadu while Trinamool bagged 34 of 42 seats in Bengal to be the third and fourth largest parties in LS. Congress, the second largest, won 44 seats, 11 short of the minimum mark (10% of total 543 seats) for a party to get leader of opposition party status under existing provisions.
The AIADMK was non-committal but an AIADMK leader said “some like-minded parties that want to deny Congress the status of recognised opposition party” could make an attempt.
Banerjee had hinted at a bloc minus Congress after the results came in on May 16. “Minus Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, we have to speak to the regional parties like Jayalalithaa’s,” she had said.
On Monday, a senior Trinamool MP called the possible arrangement “a logical follow-up” of Mamata’s words. “We are driving at some sort of a pressure group.”
“If various opposition parties form a bloc inside the Parliament and appeal to the Speaker in writing, claiming ‘Opposition’ status for the bloc, the Speaker may consider their appeal,” former LS Speaker Somnath Chatterjee told HT.
But former LS secretary general Subhash Kashyap insisted this would be “highly irregular and unprecedented”.
“The Speaker can take a call but he is also bound by rules,” Kashyap said, there had been no leader of opposition from 1952 to 1969 as no one had the requisite numbers.