NEW DELHI: Congress and Government on Tuesday traded barbs over the post of Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha with the main opposition even bringing Speaker Sumitra Mahajan in its line of fire on the issue.
Amarinder Singh, who is the Congress' deputy leader in the House, said the party has written to the Speaker, who is new, staking claim for the post and she is yet to take a decision.
"This means a decision will be taken in consultation with the government. This means whatever the government will want will happen," he told reporters in Parliament complex.
Another senior Congress leader Kamal Nath added his bit to the criticism of the Speaker saying "some parties are feeling that many of the issues which they want to raise are not being given importance which they need to be given."
The government side reacted angrily saying the Congress' views reflected its "desperation" while Mahajan declined to wade into the LoP controversy.
Mahajan maintained that it was her endeavour to give equal time to all. "This is indeed my effort that all parties get equal chance to speak and I am striving for it," she told reporters.
Asserting that the post of Leader of Opposition Sabha is its "right", the Congress party accused the government of playing "petty politics" over the issue and hoped Speaker Sumitra Mahajan will not allow her judgement to be "coloured" by various shades of politics.
"The post of LoP is a right of the Congress. It is not for the government to give it to us. It is important, inherent and necessary for the proper functioning of a Parliamentary democracy.
"Both as the biggest party and also the biggest pre-poll alliance other than the ruling alliance, Congress is a natural claimant for the post of LoP," party spokesperson Randip Surjewala told reporters here.
Congress with 44 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha has emerged as the second largest party after BJP's 282 but fell short by 11 seats to stake claim for the LoP, for which it requires a strength of 55.
As per Direction 121 of the 'Directions of the Speaker', the Speaker should ensure that a Parliamentary party or group should have at least one-tenth of the total number of members of the Lok Sabha for being eligible for getting the LoP post.
Hitting back at the Congress, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prakash Javadekar said that "casting aspersions" on the Speaker was "outrageous, condemnable and unacceptable".
"If people have not given them mandate to rule, people have not even chosen 55 of them, what can we do? How can we help?" he said.
To cast aspersions on the Speaker, Javadekar said, shows the desperation of the Congress.
Mahajan is yet to take a decision on the issue of Leader of Opposition in the lower house.