Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014

No leader of the opposition

The BJP might want to show the Congress in a poor light by demonstrating how the party is craving that position. The BJP might want to show the Congress in a poor light by demonstrating how the party is craving that position.
Written by Suhas Palshikar | Posted: July 26, 2014 12:18 am | Updated: July 26, 2014 12:20 am

As the new BJP government completes two months in office, it is quite clear that it does not intend to shift the tone, tenor and substance of politics. Having been elected on a wave of expectations, the BJP has started sending signals that, at least in the field of political conduct, it does not have a game plan to seize the initiative and think differently. The first signal came in the way it dealt with the issue of appointing governors, as this writer argued on these pages (‘If there were no governors’, IE, June 26). The issue of the leader of the opposition (LoP) appears to be another signal. As in the case of the governors, this is not about a few individuals or one person getting some perks. This is about the way institutions are handled. Democratic politics is as much about institutions as it is about mobilisations and winning elections. Having proven its ability in the latter terrain, the BJP seems to be following in the footsteps of its predecessors in disregarding the responsibility to build and strengthen institutions. To ridicule the Congress for not being eligible for the post of LoP is easy and rooted in transient politics. Dealing with the issue in a more mature and farsighted manner can open up space for the institutionalisation of political practice. According to the existing provisions, the Congress does not have the required numbers. But the issue now is whether an alliance can be recognised as a legislative party for the purpose of designating an LoP. Assuming that the leader of the Congress in the House is not entitled to “salaries, perks and cabinet rank” as per the existing legislation, the more complicated issue is whether the various committees that require the LoP to be a member (such as the committee for the appointment of the CVC) can function without her. The BJP is said to be dodging the second issue by contemplating an amendment to the relevant acts. A government that amended the TRAI regulations to suit its convenience could easily revise the LoP act and agree to make the leader of the single largest party or the leader of the largest alliance the LoP. Therefore, the argument that the designation of the LoP requires a specific strength in the House is rather specious. The government appears to be taking refuge in technicalities in trying to deny the Congress leader the position. In the end, it might, with bad grace, agree to make the leader of the largest party/ alliance the LoP, after having tested the patience of the Congress on this issue. It might also want to show the Congress in a poor light by continued…

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