The Congress has drafted a four-page letter stating the reasons why its leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjuna Kharge should be given the Leader of the Opposition status.
The party, in an effort to strengthen its claim, is planning to send the letter to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan even as it is circulating a memorandum articulating its case for the post among pre-poll allies in the UPA.
The Congress’s Deputy Leader in the Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, said on Monday that the party and its allies would submit the demand for Leader of the Opposition status to the Speaker in writing “for an immediate decision.”
On the opening day of Parliament’s budget session, the Congress stepped up the pressure on the government to give it the post, with its parliamentary party chairperson Sonia Gandhi telling journalists: “We are the single largest party and we have a pre-poll alliance. Hence, we are entitled to get the post of Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.”
But the principal Opposition party’s arguments fell on deaf ears, with at least three senior Cabinet Ministers stressing that the Congress did not have the numbers to make the claim.
The letter to the Speaker, Congress sources said, stressed that there is only one Act — The Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977 — that defines who the Leader of the Opposition can be and that makes no mention of the strength required to qualify for the official status.
It also stresses that the UPA, the largest Opposition pre-poll alliance, has 60 MPs, more than 10 per cent of the strength of the House.