The decimation of the Congress, the second largest party in the 16th Lok Sabha, brings in its wake a House without a Leader of the Opposition (LoP). With the Congress failing to get 55 members on its own, the next Lok Sabha will have “leaders of the Opposition,” not an LoP, as the rules are very clear on who can occupy this position.
The absence of an LoP, experts say, will not have an impact on the functioning of the House, except for the Opposition itself in coordinating its floor management as the Congress numbers are not substantially more than some of the regional parties. But it could affect appointments to key offices, such as that of the Central Vigilance Commissioner and the Lokpal, that mandate that the government consult the LoP. That is, unless the rules are amended to take into account this new situation.
Former Lok Sabha Secretary-General Subhash Kashyap said the rules mandated that the LoP should be from the largest party that is in opposition to the government and its members should constitute at least 10 per cent of the total strength of the House. This puts the number at 55.
The Congress is the second largest party in the House after the BJP but its tally is likely to be fewer.
Since the LoP had become a permanent fixture of recent Lok Sabhas, this seems like an unprecedented situation. But Mr. Kashyap maintained that the Lok Sabha never had an LoP before 1969.
Ironically, the first LoP Ram Subash Singh got elevated to that post primarily because of the split in the Congress that year. A 16th Lok Sabha-like situation arose in 1984 when the Congress won over 400 seats and not one of the other parties had the required 55 members on their own.
The post of LoP was upgraded in 1977 when salary, perks and allowances of the incumbent were enhanced to match that of a Cabinet Minister.