Sonia Joins Slugfest on Leader of Opposition, Congress to Send Formal Claim to Speaker
NEW DELHI: The tussle over the Leader of Opposition (LoP) post in Lok Sabha got shriller on Monday with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi breaking her silence to assert that her party was the single largest Opposition bloc in the Lower House and was hence “entitled” to the position. The party will now formally send to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan an application, bearing signatures of not just Congress MPs but also pre-poll allies of the UPA, to formally claim the post, party’s deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said.
Congress, the second largest party in the Lower House with 44 MPs, falls short of the 10 per cent mark, that is 55 members in the 545-member Lok Sabha, which the ruling BJP has cited as mandatory for getting the LoP status. Countering BJP’s claims, Sonia Gandhi told reporters in Parliament, “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.”
While she refused to reveal her future course of action, Anand Sharma claimed the party has a strong case as the 10 per cent dictum of first Speaker G V Mavalankar has long been overtaken by four statutory provisions passed by Parliament where the LoP post has been defined.
Earlier, Congress sources had said the party was considering the option of going to court if its leader in the Lok Sabha is not recognised as the LoP. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said the issue was not raised in an all-party meeting held ahead of the Budget Session of the new government. “No one raised the issue of Leader of Opposition at the party meet,” Naidu told reporters, indicating that the Congress stands little chance of claiming the post.
Naidu added that the government has no reservation on any issue and is open to discussion. “We are willing to discuss each and every issue depending on its national importance and also the admissibility of the same by the respective Presiding Officer,” he said. The meeting was attended by PM Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
‘Bid to Subvert Appointments’
Congress Deputy Leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma accused the government of trying to subvert the appointments of Lokpal, CVC and other key post by denying the LoP status to Congress. “We will not allow that to happen,’’ he said.