Lok Sabha Speaker keeps up suspense over Leader of Opposition

Keeping the Congress on tenterhooks, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan will take a decision on the issue of giving the post of Leader of Opposition to the party after studying rules, regulations and precedents.

New Delhi: Keeping the Congress on tenterhooks, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan will take a decision on the issue of giving the post of Leader of Opposition to the party after studying rules, regulations and precedents.

Elected to the post unanimously a week ago, she says she would consult constitutional authorities, legal experts and "experienced persons" before deciding the issue ahead of the Budget session, expected to start on July 7.

"Definitely we will have to think over it. There are rules and regulations. One says ten per cent, another says single largest group. And there are past precedents which I will have to study. Only after that I will be able to take a decision", Mahajan told.

She was replying to a question whether it was necessary for a party to win a minimum of ten per cent seats of the 543-member House to get the Leader of the Opposition status.

Mahajan appeared not impressed by the Congress argument that though it has secured 44 seats, the UPA, which is a pre-poll alliance, has secured 58 seats.

"Rules say, If I am not wrong, whether a party has that many seats. They do not talk of a coalition. Leader of the Opposition belongs to the main opposition party and it is the party that is recognised, not the alliance", she said.

"Percentage of vote of a party may be large or small. It should not be neglected at all. We are living in democracy. Even one vote is important we know that. Two or three-member parties are also equally important to me. I cannot ignore in the House any small or large party.", she said.
Mahajan`s remarks came when asked about the Congress
argument that the party has secured more than 19 per cent of votes and such a large percentage cannot be ignored.

"There is no letter at all from Sonia Gandhiji to me pertaining to this subject. I do not know how this news came", she said when asked about reports which claimed that the Congress chief had written to the Speaker pitching for the LoP status to the party and an early decision on it.

The Speaker struck an abundant note of caution. "I am not saying anything authentic and final. I cannot say anything off hand. All these things I will have to study. Whether alliance is recognised or party is recognised for giving LoP. Before that I cannot say. Party and alliances are two different things and I will have to study," the veteran parliamentarian said.

Replying to a question, she said that a decision will have to be taken before the next session. "I will have to consult constitutional authorities, legal experts and experienced persons", she said.

The Speaker`s observations came a day after the Congress raised the pitch over the Leader of Opposition issue in Lok Sabha maintaining that it will be "undemocratic" if the ruling party ignores its say in the appointment of Lokpal and other such key decisions.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had yesterday steered clear of questions on the issue saying the matter is with the Speaker.

He had earlier taunted the Congress saying that people have not chosen any party for the position of Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

BJP leaders have been saying that the Congress, which won a huge majority in 1984, did not confer the status of the Leader of the Opposition on Telugu Desam which had emerged the single largest opposition party with 30 MPs.

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