In a setback to Congress which has been fighting for the Leader of Opposition post, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi has opined that it is not eligible and there is no precedent since the days of the first Lok Sabha to grant the post to a party which does not have the minimum required MPs.
Rohatgi has conveyed this to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan who had sought his opinion in view of the dilemma she is facing over the issue, sources said.
The top law officer of the country has said Congress is not eligible as it does not have the required 10 per cent (55 seats) in the 543-member Lok Sabha, the sources said. Congress has only 44 seats.
To back his opinion, the AG has said there is no precedence where a party was given the LoP position — the status of a Cabinet Minister — without meeting the criteria of 10 per cent seats since the days of first Lok Sabha when G V Mavlankar was the Speaker, they said.
Even during the time of Rajiv Gandhi in 1984, Congress with over 400 seats had refused to grant LoP status to TDP for the same reason, the AG has told the Speaker.
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The AG is also learnt to have rejected the contention that LoP status could be given to the leader of Congress-led UPA coalition as there is no such precedence. UPA has 60 members in the House.
Lok Sabha Secretariat officials refused to make any comment, saying a decision in the matter was yet to be taken. Mahajan, who has been facing the tough situation on taking a call on the tricky issue, has said that she would consult legal and constitutional experts besides experienced persons in firming up a decision.
Reacting to the development, Congress, which has recently upped the ante over the issue, hoped that the Speaker will “not be misguided” by the opinion of the AG.
“Attorney General represents the government’s opinion. He articulates the government’s viewpoint. Government has nothing to do with it (LoP issue). It is the domain of the Speaker.
We will react after the ruling of the Speaker,” Congress General Secretary Shakeel Ahmed.
BJP said Congress may have to be content without the LoP post in the Lok Sabha as it will be difficult for the Speaker to give it to the party after she sought an opinion from the AG on the issue.