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Lok Sabha must have LoP: Govt should come out with a solution
The BJP-led NDA government had to face question from the Supreme Court (SC) for not assigning leader of the opposition (LoP) status to any of the parties or the alliance in the Lower House of the Parliament.

The government argued about precedents in the past when there were no LoP and also that that it was the prerogative of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and not that of the Union government to take decision about LoP.

But still the SC stuck to its stand and asked the Union government to reply about the procedure to be followed in the selection of the national ombudsman in the anti-corruption body without the possible participation of the LoP.

It said, "Does it not convey the voice of those not representing the government? It is an important voice." According to a TOI report, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi indicated that providing for the presence of the leader of the largest party in opposition on the selection committee could be one of the ways to ensure that the opposition was involved in the exercise.

Fine! There have been precedents in the Parliament as there was no LoP from 1952 to 1969 and also in between 1980 and 1989. But then there was no Lokpal either. Also, this is a different time altogether. Sure, the Union government is ready to take into account opposition's view over the selection of Lokpal and therefore, those objections that the anti-corruption body would be lesser representative, lesser judicious and lesser justified are not fully correct and fair.

But still I think that the country should have a LoP in the Lok Sabha as it makes the Parliament more balanced, representative, and accountable from both the treasury and the opposition benches' perspectives. But then it is not the Indian National Congress (INC), which deserves the status of LoP in the present scenario. Neither is it so, after the apex court's probable positive ruling for the party, after the government's rejection of the INC's claims.

In recent times the INC is behaving very badly in the Parliament and therefore, from Parliamentary ethics point of view it does not deserve concessions from the treasury benches. Precedents are many times not, and should not always be, a guide to the future.

The argument that it is the prerogative of the Lok Sabha Speaker is not entirely valid as she represents the will of the government in the Parliament to some extent. But again I think in all honesty that the Lok Sabha should have LoP.

However, the fact is that the INC has not got minimum 10% of the seats in the Lower House. So how the LoP should be chosen? One way is to amend the procedure and provide leader of biggest minimum double-digit opposition party as LoP by default. But I do not think that it is that feasible as of now.

Since it is not the right of the INC, therefore, in that case, I think there should be two candidates from the opposition, provided their parties have comparable strengths, and all the opposition members should vote for one of the two. In case there is big difference between the biggest opposition party which does not have required minimum 10% of seats in the Parliament and the next, the LoP post should go to the biggest opposition. 

Now there are three main non-NDA parties in the present Lok Sabha: the INC with 44 seats, the AIDMK with 38 seats and the TMC with 33 seats. There are not huge differences in the number of seats won by the three parties.

Since the AIDMK has promised issue-based constructive support to the NDA government, it may skip its candidacy for the LoP, therefore only the INC and the TMC could be in the fray. Or else, if the AIDMK believes that it can get the prized post it can withdraw issue-based support to the Union government.

Those who are officially opposition members should vote on two candidates in the Lower House in the presence of the Speaker of the House. Whosoever gets more numbers of votes should be assigned as the LoP.

In case of a tie, the bigger party's candidate should be declared winner and if both have equal strength than more expansive party's candidate should be assigned the status of LoP. And if both the parties are qualitative equal on that count too, though this just cannot be the case, then both the leaders should get the post of LoP on rotation basis, equally.

I know the suggestion may look awkward, disputed, clumsy and even crazy, more so, because while the INC is a national party and has pan-India presence, both the AIDMK and the TMC are mostly confined to a single state. Therefore, either of the two does not represent the will of the people of the nation but only that of a single state.

Their major influence, even in extremely friendly situations, just cannot ever extend beyond one or two more states. But then either the rule be changed or else the government can do very little to support the INC candidacy. While the apex court may have a ruling over the matter, I think that it is a gray area.

The judiciary should not intervene too much in either executive matters or legislative matters. If the Union government and the Lok Sabha Speaker reject INC's demand of LoP's status and if the apex court intervenes thereafter, then it should be considered a possible transgression and encroachment into others' domains.

But I think that the matter would be resolved in an amicable way. Whatever be the procedure, but I think we should have a LoP. The Modi-government should be cautious also, as it does not have a majority in the Upper House of the Parliament and the Upper House also matters in many legislative works.

Better the NDA government do something for the post of LoP after taking exhaustive legal opinion rather than succumbing on that because of practical reasons. That could be a great embarrassment for the Modi-government.

The apex court has given four weeks to the government to reply its position on the selection of LoP and also to recast ombudsman selection rules. The Union government should utilize the time fully and should not give too many controversial statements in public and media domain until it takes a firm and final stand over the matter.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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