The Congress, meanwhile, is set to hand over a letter with signatures of all the UPA MPs to speaker Sumitra Mahajan to make a combined bid for the constitutional post. Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge is expected to meet Mahajan on Wednesday. Sources confirmed Kharge has sought an appointment with the Speaker.
Though sources close to Sonia termed the meeting with the president a “routine courtesy call”, it came after the Congress president met party MPs in the Lok Sabha. Sources said Sonia and Mukherjee discussed the prevailing political situation, indicating that the LoP issue figured in the discussion. The Congress is set to argue the The Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977 mandates the creation of such a post.
The party has also argued that the ruling of G V Mavlankar — the first Lok Sabha Speaker — that a party should have 10 per cent of the total seats to qualify for the post does not hold good now. The LoP, the Congress insists, is an “essential part of our Parliamentary fabric” and not a matter of “subjective discretion”.
“No ruling of the Speaker can substitute or override an Act of Parliament,” the Congress has claimed. The idea behind roping in allies to sign the memorandum was to circumvent the 10 per cent argument the Speaker might offer. The Congress has argued that the party, along with its pre-poll allies, satisfies the requirement of 55 seats. The memorandum will have signatures of 44 Congress MPs, six NCP members, four from the RJD and two each from the Muslim League, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Kerala Congress (M) and RSP.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, meanwhile, said the government would be happy to have a recognised LoP in the House like in the Rajya Sabha. He also said he regretted that even without formally staking claim, some Congress leaders were talking of going to courts on the issue.