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NDA govt should accept either a Congress or an UPA leader as LOP in Lok Sabha
No doubt the debate on the position of Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha is heating up particularly after Sonia Gandhi submitted a letter to the Speaker, in which she asked speaker of the house Sumitra Mahajan to acknowledge the Congress Parliamentary party leader Mallikarjun Kharge as official Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LOP) in the upper house.

Although Sonia Gandhi wrote it to speaker, but she in fact has put the ball in Narendra Modi’s court particularly after the latter assured in Parliament to take opposition along with him in the governance matters.

The position of Leader of Opposition was vacant till 1977 after just a brief period of around a year (from 17 December 1969 to 27 December 1970) when Ram Subhag Singh of Indian National Congress (O) held the post. It should be noted that there was no recognition for Leader of opposition until 1969. The related act 1977 at least gives a formal recognition in terms of salary and allowance. The 1998 act put a condition that to be recognized Leader of Opposition a single party in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha must have number strength of 55 and 25 respectively.

Sonia Gandhi and many others are arguing on the basis of 1977 act which doesn’t specify any minimum number for a party to be the official leader of opposition. Rather it says largest party of the opposition in terms of number of members. If two or more parties in opposition have same numbers, then speaker has the discretion. But the Congress really fails to answer why there was no recognized Leader of Opposition from 22 December 1979 to 18th December 1989. Wasn’t it because of the Congress’s brute majority in Lok Sabha simply overruled the provision of 1977 act?

Anyway, the Leader of Opposition particularly in Lok Sabha has a prime important role to play these days, as it has key role in appointment of many Statutory and Constitutional posts such as CVC chief, Lokpal and even in coming days, the CBI director.

Thus Narendra Modi government must take a holistic view on this and shouldn’t become intolerant to the opposition. It’s also learned that BJP government is planning for an amendment to incorporate LOP (RS) if there is no LOP (LS). But I think in the present era, where coalition somehow exists, the 1998 act might be modified to largest individual party if it has more than 10% seat or largest pre-poll alliance if it has obtained more than 10% seats.

Democracy always functions well if there is an opposition. No formal opposition and sometimes brute majority of ruling party make the government autocratic and sometimes have monopolies. That is against the spirit of the democracy. In this time, at least there is a check in Rajya Sabha because the ruling NDA doesn’t have the majority.

I would say, NDA government should propose to speaker to accept either Congress's demand of LOP scrapping the 1998 spanner or incorporating the term of pre-poll alliance having numbers more than 10%. If government wants to take all on board, it has to extend its respect to opposition despite their poor performance in the elections!

Wish Narendra Modi would do better in the interest of democracy and advise speaker to appoint if not the Congress leader, then a UPA leader as LOP (LS).

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