Contrary to the speculation in political circles that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislative leader in the new assembly may not get the the designation of Leader of Opposition (LoP), the outgoing Speaker of the assembly, Charanjit Singh Atwal, said that going by the rules there, did not seem any impediment for AAP.
Post announcement of the Punjab assembly election results, there have been murmurs that even though AAP was the largest opposition party, having more seats than the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance, there may be a move to deny them the position of LoP because their numbers were much less than the required percentage. The example of the Congress’ position in the Lok Sabha was being cited as the reason for denying them the position since the Congress in the parliament fell short of the required number of seats and had been denied the position of LoP.
However, speaking to The Indian Express, Atwal said, “as per the rules of the assembly, a party is needed to have one tenth of the total number of seats in the house in order to get the position of LoP for one of its MLAs. Therefore I do not see any problem in the party getting this status as this is well provided for in the rules,” said Atwal.
A former Deputy Speaker of the Punjab assembly, Bir Devinder Singh was also of the view that the rules were very clear in this regard and that if AAP fulfilled the conditions then it could be given the position of LoP. “One tenth is the required number of seats and with 20 seats of its own and two independent MLAs supporting it, it comfortably meets the requirement,” he said.
A senior Congress leader, when contacted, said that the party had no intention to deny any legitimate position to any party. “If AAP fulfills the conditions then it can certainly be given the designation of LoP for its chosen MLA. We have just said that the rules and regulations would be examined in this regard as we have been denied the status of LoP in Lok Sabha by the NDA government,” he said.
This would be the first time in 20 years that the outgoing Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal would not be the LoP in the state assembly. Since the SAD-BJP combine has managed to get lesser seats than the AAP, as per the rules it will not be able to get the status of LoP for Badal. However, Badal would still be the senior most politician in the assembly by virtue of his age as well as political and legislative experience. It remains to be seen how he would be accommodated in the seating position in the assembly, given his seniority in the house, after the oath taking ceremony is supervised by the pro tem Speaker.
Meanwhile, a meeting of the newly elected AAP legislatures will be held in New Delhi on Wednesday where the name of the person to be nominated as the LoP will be discussed. AAP sources said that among the four who are in contention for the appointment are HS Phoolka, Kanwar Sandhu, Sukhpal Khaira and Aman Arora.