Mr. Kharge’s meeting with the Speaker came a day after Congress president Sonia Gandhi held a meeting with party MPs on the issue
Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge met Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Wednesday to stake formally the party’s claim to the post of Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the House. He submitted a memorandum containing the signatures of 60 MPs of the United Progressive Alliance, even as the government continued to maintain that the principal Opposition party had no right to the position as the electorate had not given it the required numbers.
However, top government sources conceded that in view of the changed situation — a memorandum with the signatures of 60 MPs that exceeds the mandated 10 per cent of the House — the request would have to be given a fresh look.
But sources also made it clear that the government did not think the Congress deserved the post, and pointed out that when the party had been in power, it had never made a similar concession — they cited 1984, when the Telugu Desam Party, which was the largest Opposition party, had been denied the post citing lack of numbers.
Shortly after his meeting with Ms. Mahajan, Mr. Kharge told presspersons, “We have submitted a memorandum and it is for her to take a view on the matter.”
Having realised that the government would deny it the status, the Congress decided to use the device of presenting itself as the head of the largest Opposition pre-poll coalition with 60 MPs.
On the Congress’s plea that the post is now even more important as the LoP is part of the selection panel for heads of key statutory bodies such as the CVC and the Lokpal, senior ministerial sources said the Acts that governed them stated that if there was a vacancy, the selection could still go through.
Responding to this argument, LoP in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “The reference is to a member being absent at a particular meeting, not being absent from the panel.”
Deputy leader of the Congress Amarinder Singh, who, along with party chief whip Jyotiraditya Scindia, accompanied Mr. Kharge, expressed the hope that there would be no problem in taking an early decision in the wake of the memorandum. Clearly, the battle for securing the position of LoP in the Lok Sabha is not yet over.