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Congress not eligible for LoP post, AG tells speaker

Saturday, 26 July 2014 - 6:35am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan is likely to reject the Congress claim for the post of Leader of Opposition (LoP), as the party doesn't have required 10% strength of the House. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who met Mahajan on Friday at her office, shared the government view that the party claiming the post of the LoP must have a "quorum" strength, that means atleast 55 MPs. The party has just 44 members in Lok Sabha.

The Congress has fiercely contested that view, saying in an inclusive democracy and for the sake of transparency, its leader must be declared the LoP, who as per statute, is member of a high-powered panel to select Lokpal, chairman of National Human Rights Commission, Chief of Information Commission and also the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC).

Earlier, the Congress leaders had threatened to take the matter to court, but insiders say, several top leaders were now developing cold feet to involve judiciary. Congress leader Malikarjun Kharge may be involved in the selection process of the CVC, as the specific Act, talks about the leader of largest group in opposition, but other laws strictly speak about the LoP be made the member of selection panel.

Recently, Congress president Sonia Gandhi also said, "We are the single largest party and we have a pre-poll alliance. Hence, we are entitled to get the post of leader of opposition in Lok Sabha."

The government had said that the speaker would decide on the Congress' petition - which was signed by 60 MPs, including the party's allies like Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party.

Sources said the Attorney General has underscored that the dirst speaker of the Lok Sabha, Ganesh Vasudev Mavlankar, had said that the Leader of the Opposition must belong to a party whose MPs match the quorum of the house - 55 lawmakers. Rohatgi said policy has been followed for nearly 60 years, and meant that there was no Leader of Opposition on earlier occassions.

On similar grounds, the Congress-National Conference (NC) combine government in Jammu and Kashmir in 2009 had refused the status of the LoP to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti.

The PDP was short of 4 MLAs to claim the quorum strength. Ms. Mufti over five years since 2009 to 2014, when she was leader of the opposition PDP was not made part of selection panel to appoint chiefs of state human rights commission, accountability (Lokpal) commission and other statutory bodies. She was, however, called in the meetings to select state vigilance commissioner, as the Act called for leader of main opposition party, rather the leader of opposition.

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