The Haryana Vidhan Sabha, which assembles Friday for monsoon session, will have a new seating arrangement for the MLAs. But, there will be a peculiar situation this time – absence of any Leader of Opposition in the 90-member House. A number of MLAs have switched sides over the last three months – the defections majorly affecting prime opposition party Indian National Lok Dal resulting in its leader Abhay Chautala losing the post of LoP. Abhay’s resignation from the post was accepted by the Speaker, but the Congress, now the second-largest party, could not grab the post due to infighting. The Indian Express explains the uncertainty and reasons that led to this situation in the Vidhan Sabha
Who can be a Leader of Opposition in Haryana Vidhan Sabha?
According to Haryana Vidhan Sabha’s “Handbook for Members” – “That group of Members (MLAs) in the Opposition is given recognition as an Opposition Party, the strength of which is at present at least 10 enough to constitute a quorum in the House. It has been held that to gain recognition as an Opposition Party, the members thereof should have a common economic and political programmes both inside and outside the House”.
What is the current scenario in Haryana Vidhan Sabha?
In 2014 Assembly polls, while BJP won absolute majority with 47 seats in the 90-member House, INLD got 19 and Indian National Congress got 17. Since INLD had bigger strength than Congress, party MLA from Ellanabad, Abhay Singh Chautala was chosen as LoP by way of a resolution passed by the party legislators, which was submitted to the Speaker. It is the Speaker who recognises LoP. However, Abhay had to resign from the post in March this year, after party’s strength fell short of the minimum mark of 10 members. INLD’s current strength in the 90-member House has been reduced to mere six after party MLA from Ratia, Ravinder Baliala, joined the BJP Thursday.
How did INLD fall short of the minimum number?
INLD’s strength kept reducing after two of its MLAs – Jaswinder Singh Sandhu (Pehowa) and Dr Hari Chand Middha (Jind) – died last year. BJP bagged Jind in the bypoll held in January this year, increasing its strength to 48. Since December last year, INLD’s numbers kept shrinking further with numerous MLAs deserting the party. While five MLAs joined BJP, four allegedly deserted the party and openly supported INLD’s splinter faction Jannayak Janta Party. Although the four MLAs including Abhay’s sister-in-law Naina Chautala had written to Speaker claiming that they did not resign from INLD, but the party had already disowned them after they supported JJP in Lok Sabha polls.
Can a Leader of Opposition be chosen from Congress?
A LoP can be chosen from Congress since it has now become the main opposition party in the House. There were 17 MLAs of Congress in the 90-Member House. One MLA, Jai Tirath Dahiya, resigned from the membership of Vidhan Sabha, Thursday. Although this reduces Congress’ strength to 16, the LoP can yet be chosen from among the party legislators. Congress Legislative Party leader Kiran Choudhry, MLA from Tosham, had already staked claim to the coveted post, which is equivalent to the rank of state Cabinet minister. However, Speaker had junked her letter on the grounds that he can not recognise a LoP unless Congress MLAs pass a resolution. Although the Vidhan Sabha rules are silent on how a LoP shall be recognised, the Speaker claims that the precedent shows a resolution from the opposition party’s MLAs is a “must”.
Why isn’t there a resolution from Congress?
The ongoing infighting within Haryana Congress is the main reason that the MLAs have not signed any resolution supporting Kiran Choudhry’s nomination as LoP. Out of 17, at least 12 MLAs are supporting Bhupinder Singh Hooda, former Chief Minister of Haryana. Party sources disclosed that Hooda and 12 MLAs have already requested the party high command to take a call on the MLA who should be nominated as LoP. However, no decision has been taken by Congress high command, as yet.
Does absence of Leader of Opposition affect the functioning of Vidhan Sabha?
Vidhan Sabha polls in Haryana are scheduled for October, this year. The Model Code of Conduct is likely to be imposed across the state by mid-September. Absence of LoP will not affect functioning of the House. However, since Congress has become the main opposition party now, its MLAs shall be sitting on the left of the Speaker and opposite the Treasury benches occupied by the ruling party BJP.