Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan has finally conveyed to the Congress that it would not have a leader of opposition in Lok Sabha. In a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, according to sources, she has cited three reasons — past precedents, the 10% rule and legal opinion.
In 1980 or 1984 (the seventh and eighth Lok Sabhas) and in 1971 (fifth Lok Sabha), when the Congress swept elections and no opposition party managed to get 10 per cent seats, there was no Leader of Opposition in the House.
The speaker conveyed to the Congress that it did not fulfill the condition that for a leader of opposition, a party has be a recognised one with at least 55 seats. The Congress has 44 seats in Lok Sabha.
The Congress, which had given a letter to the speaker with 60 signatures which included those of its allies requesting that it be granted the post, had been using the argument that in the 80s, the absence of a leader of opposition was because no party staked claim for it. However, Lok Sabha sources said the post is not granted to a coalition of parties but to a single party.
The government had lobbed the ball into the speaker's court saying it would be her discretion. Though the speaker had written the letter on August 14, the last day of the budget session, it was delivered to Gandhi on Tuesday after the long weekend, sources said.
The leader of opposition serves on several important panels including those for the selection of Chief Vigilance Commissioner, CBI director and Lokpal members. The post got statutory recognition in 1977 through the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act.
In the Judicial Appointments Commission, replacing the Collegium system of appointing judges, the government has made provision for "leader of the largest party" if there is no leader of opposition, in the six-member committee. However, there is no clarity on whether government would adopt the same pattern in other selection panels.