LoP post denied to Congress: Is the party getting taste of its own medicine?

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Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi
It's seems the Congress is getting taste of its own medicine. The grand-old party of India, which has been ruling for more than 60 years, is now struggling hard to get the Leader of Opposition post (LoP) in the 16th Lok Sabha. Adding further to its woes, the Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Tuesday denied it the post of LoP in the Lok Sabha. Mahajan said Congress is not eligible for the coveted post as it doesn't have the requisite strength to stake claim.

According to reports, Mahajan has written a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi giving three reasons for denying the coveted post. Mahajan cited past precedents of Congress-dominated Lok Sabha in 1980 and 1984 when there was no recognized leader of opposition.

She also cited Attorney-General Mukul Rohatagi's opinion on the issue. The top law officer had said that since Congress does not have at least 55 members in the Lok Sabha, it cannot be given the post of Leader of the Opposition.

Mahajan has also cited directions of the past Speakers on this issue to insist that the post cannot be given to Congress. Congress president Sonia had written to Mahajan seeking LoP status for Mallikarjun Kharge who is the party's leader in the lower House.

The posts of Leader of Opposition (LoP) in both Houses of Parliament are posts that are at par with Cabinet Ministers.

After humiliating defeat, Congress is making LoP a prestige issue

The Congress which experienced historical rout in the recently concluded Lok Sabha election is desperate to get the LoP status in Lok Sabha, making it an issue of political prestige. To strengthen its demand, the party had even submitted a memorandum to the Speaker containing signatures of 60 UPA MPs.

Until 1969, there was no post like Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha

But, the question here arises that if the requisite for the Opposition party and LoP are clearly known , why the party is adamant over its stand and playing a victim. In recently concluded Lok Sabha poll, Congress got 44 seats, which is 11 short of availing LoP status or 10 per cent rule.

What the history says?

There is no precedent in history of Indian Parliament, where a party get the status of main Opposition party or the LoP post without acquring at least 10 per cent strength in the Lok Sabha.

Congress which has been ruling the country for more than 60 years, has many times undemocraticially denied the coveted post to the smaller parties.

In 1952, the then Speaker Ganesh Mavalankar didn't recognise National Democratic Party (NDP) as an Opposition party. The NDP was formed by Jan Sangh alongwith some other small parties. It had 32 members in the first Lok Sabha.

Until 1969, there was no post like Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha till Ram Subhag Singh of Indian National Congress (O) occupied the post in the fourth Lok Sabha, the year when Congress was divided.

The LoP post was vacant between 1970 and 1977 in the fifth Lok Sabha until it was occupied by YB Chavan of Congress in 1977 after Indira's emergency regime was booted out of power. In 1980, the Indira Gandhi-led Congress returned to power and the Leader of Opposition post was left vacant till 1989 until it was occupied by Rajiv Gandhi in the ninth Lok Sabha when Janata Dal came to power.

Before crying wolf over the issue, the grand old party should look into history. Rather than accusing Speaker of being unfair and biased, the party should abide by the rules or the tradition.

Congress is the second largest party in Lok Sabha with 44 MPs after BJP's 282. The party has been maintaining that it should be given the status of LoP even if it doesn't have required numbers.

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