The BJP has suggested to the government that changes be made in the appropriate law to formalise the post of Chairperson of the parliamentary units of both the Congress and the BJP,and accord it Cabinet rank. Senior BJP leader LK Advani quit as Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha last week to become the Chairman of its parliamentary party.
Senior BJP parliamentary functionaries led by SS Ahluwalia,Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha,made a proposal to the UPA managers in Parliament on Monday,with the underlying suggestion that the move would benefit Sonia Gandhi,who currently does not enjoy official privileges other than those she has by virtue of being an SPG protectee and spouse of a former Prime Minister.
The UPA-I government had created the National Advisory Council (NAC) with Sonia as chairperson to accord her Cabinet rank. Sonia,however,resigned in 2006,and the NACs term expired in 2008.
The Congress has not yet responded to the proposal. Officials said formalising the post of party Chairperson would entail making amendments to the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act,1977.
The changes made in the constitution of the BJP parliamentary party to create the post of Chairman for Advani were similar to those made in the constitution of the Congress parliamentary party some years ago in order to make Sonia Chairperson of the CPP. The generational shift in the BJP,which saw the elevation of Sushma Swaraj as Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha,resulted in Advani losing the Cabinet rank that the Leader of Opposition enjoys under the Constitution.
As per the 1977 Act,the Leaders of Opposition in both Houses enjoy special perks and allowances besides primacy in protocol. The Leader of Opposition is a
formal invitee to all functions,and a member of several important committees,which appoint functionaries like the CIC,Director,CBI,and Chairman of the Central Vigilance Commission.
The Leader of Opposition is allowed a personal staff of 12. This includes a personal secretary,two assistant personal secretaries,a First PA,a Second PA,a Hindi steno and six junior staffers. Leaders of Opposition get a daily allowance of Rs 1,000 and a salary. They are entitled to designated offices in Parliament,and RAX (restricted access) phone lines.
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