On the leader Of Opposition debate, the people are divided into two groups. One group, sees the reluctance of the Government to appoint a leader Of Opposition as justified, as Congress failed to get the minimum 10 percent seats of total Lok Sabha Seats (comes out to be 55 seats) in the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections. The other group, is seeing this reluctance, as nothing but the unjustified (laden with arrogance) stand of the Government.
Both the groups have some weighty arguments in support of their viewpoint. But the issue needs to be looked at from a comprehensive view point. As the issue is much important for the people. The importance of which is even stressed upon by the Honorable Supreme Court. Only yesterday, the Supreme Court Chief Justice bench has asked the Centre : No Leader of Opposition? Please Explain why?
The SC judges put the above question to the Centre, while hearing Aam Aadmi Party leader Prashant Bhushan’s petition asking the government to explain the delay in appointing the nine members of the national anti-graft ombudsman or Lokpal, the existence of which came after a law passed by Parliament in December 2013.
Voicing its concern on the lack of LOP, the Supreme Court yesterday told the government that it is concerned about the post of Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha remaining vacant. Since the post of LOP conveys a voice different from the government’s” and hence is therefore crucial. The SC has given Union Government four weeks to furnish its response.
But before that, the issue and the debate so far.
The Speaker of Lok Sabha appoints the Leader of Opposition. To appoint the LOP, the speaker follows a procedure : The leader of the Single largest party in Opposition (which contested the election in opposition to the Government) is made the LOP. But to become eligible for the post of LOP, the said largest party in opposition must have at least 10 percent of the total seats in Lok Sabha, which comes out to be 55.
The Congress had made its claim as the single-largest opposition party, and demanded to have a recognised Leader of the Opposition. But Speaker Sumitra Mahajan rejected it, citing rules that a party must have at least 55 members in the House to claim the post. The Congress has 44.
Notably, the above rule is just a procedure is NOT a Law. It’s just a tradition.
There’s much ambiguity regarding the tradition as well. After the 16th Lok Sabha elections verdict, when it became evident that the 16th Lok Sabha won’t have a Leader of the Opposition since none of the non-NDA parties has secured 54 seats (10 pc of the Lok Sabha’s strength); there was a confusion even among journalists whether a pre-poll alliance can claim the recognised LOP. From the various interpretations of the procedure adopted in the recognition of the LOP, it appears that even the Congress is not very clear, while quoting the rules made in 1977 and further amended in 2003. It can’t be said for sure that these two clearly state that the largest opposition party should be allotted the post of Leader of the Opposition.
But going by the previous Lok Sabhas, it appears that the 10 percent rule is mostly adhered to.
You can’t win the Debate all the time
If one looks the issue from the encroachment of judiciary in the sphere of the Legislature; then the Congress has no right to demand the recognition of Leader of Opposition. What Speaker is following is a well established trend. But the difficulty arises when the BJP wants to win the debate every time.
On TV panel debates and Print media articles on the issue, the BJP spokespersons are taking two stands:
1) They are justifying the non-recognition of the LOP on the ground that the previous Congress Governments did the same, when they were in power.
2) When they are being countered , by not getting too revengeful, and instead the Government request the speaker to recognise the LOP. The same spokespersons are saying that the Speaker may be of the BJP, but she is an impartial figure.
If the Speaker is a disinterested / impartial post, then on what ground BJP can blame the previous Governments at Centre for not recognising the LOP. They must blame the Speakers then.
BJP spokespersons have a habit of defeating every debate by sheer oratory. This is not possible, on most occasions. Speaking more also means getting caught.
Leader of Opposition appointment Helps People .. Here’s How
Ask yourself, why democracy is better? As most democracies keep in view the diversity of people living in a democratic country. A diversity, which doesn’t stop at religion , but extends to caste, region, dialects, ethnicity, voice, empowerment, ideology, worldly outlook, sensitivity, reach etc. The Opposition is the essence of democracy, as it reflects the voice of those who are not in power. If the government chooses to ignore the position of Leader of Opposition, it is an incomplete democracy.
That’s why the selection panel for the key posts like judges, Chief Vigilance Commissioner, CBI Director, members of the Lokpal, National Human Rights commission members and chairman, chief information commissioners, seat bearers of Women and Child rights Commissions, have the leader of Opposition. Some panels, such as the selection panel of CVC, have been amended to read either the Leader of Opposition or the leader of single largest party.
Notably, by law, the committee that selects the Lokpal’s members must include the Leader of the Opposition along with the Prime Minister and Chief Justice of India. Since there is no LOP at present, hence there will be no LOP in the committee. And the Lokpal law allows a decision even when there is a “vacancy” in the selection panel.
If the Government doesn’t want to give recognition to LOP in 16th Lok Sabha; then it should add “Leader of the single largest party” in the selection panels for all the above posts. In short, make all the above selection panels like those of CVC .
This is because, it’s necessary to have the opposition voice in these appointments. Here’s why.
In the Lok Sabha elections 2014, the BJP got 31 percent of votes. This means 69 percent votes are cast to parties other than BJP. These parties may be in opposition or some may be in NDA alliance, but they do represent diversity in terms of religion, caste, region, dialect, ethnicity, voice, empowerment, reach, worldly outlook, sensitivity etc. The Government can’t make appointments ignoring these diversities. It has been proved time and again, that the extent of empathy or high handedness of the state with the people largely depends upon the caste, ethnicity and other differences between the state’s controlling machinery (read police) and the people. Hence the proper representation of these diversity is necessary in such selection panels and final appointments.
Take for instance, the issue of Human right violations. The human rights violations at the hand of the state or Government, happen because there’s a lack of empathy for the other person’s or groups’ basic human rights. What is seen as disruptive activity by the state, is seen as a basic right by the agitating person or group. The main reason for this is the expanse of India, where culturally and ethnically, North India is as distant from South India, as Delhi is from the North East and J&K. There are many examples where police of one ethnicity was rewarded later on for their high handedness over the people of other ethnic group (Rampur Tiraha blockade of Uttarakhand State Movement protesters in 1994). Don’t go far, even the human rights violations of women are best empathized with when women are in the selection panels of respective bodies, are in such bodies and also in the controlling machinery. Else there can be no sensitivity.
To conclude, it’s not that its is the first time the Judiciary is getting aware of the utmost necessity of LOP. What stops it from amending this anomaly, is the blame of encroaching in the sphere of the legislature.