In the year 1977- The leaders of opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were given statutory recognition.
• They provide constructive criticism of the government policies.
• Gets same salaries and allowances that are equivalent to a Cabinet minister – paid by the government.
• To become leader of opposition, the single largest political party in opposition should have atleast 10% seats in the Lok Sabha. The Leader of such a party acts as the Leader of Opposition.
Eligibility criteria of the LoP:
• Each house has a LoP – leader of the largest party that has not less than one-tenth of the total strength of the house. In Lok sabha, total strength = 545, one tenth = 55.
• Largest party in opposition and its leader is recognized by the Speaker / Chairman as a matter of convention established by 1st lok sabha speaker GV Mavlankar. Main opposition’s strength must be 10% of the total strength. The convention was later incorporated in Direction 121c, Directions by the Speaker.
• LoP accorded statutory status and defined under Salary and allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977.
Significance of the LoP:
• To provide constructive criticism on the policies of the government.
• Helps to represent a view contrary from that of government.
• LoP is required on the panels that recommend key appointments like Lokpal, CVC, CIC etc.
• As per the 2nd ARC setup a Civil service Board- for transfer posting of top bureaucratic posts, the members of this Committee, will be selected by PM and LoP.
Different committees and Role of the LoP:
Current Controversy related to the post (10% Rule):
• Congress being the second largest party has 44 seats. Even If; in count the whole UPA alliance- its 60 members. It falls short of the 10% norm. After 10 years of being in the power, it does not get even LoP.
• Therefore, Speaker of the LS declares, ‘neither congress nor the UPA leader can be declared as the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha because none has won the required 55 seats.”
• Congress has been demanding the post of LoP but the Speaker rejected their proposal citing conventions and norms. However, her decision was criticized as there is no law that mandates the 10% eligibility.
(In 16th Lok Sabha Assembly, National congress party did not get the requisite number and made the leader of opposition ( LoP ) in spite of not having LoP recognition , Mallikarjun Kharge has been inducted in CIC selection panel.)
Comparison with other Countries:
• Britain- the opposition is formally designated Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. They also form the Shadow Cabinet to balance the ruling cabinet and prepare its members for future ministerial offices.
• United States – The President is held accountable by minority parties in Congress.
A flourishing democracy should accommodate the fundamental right to dissent. Inclusion of LoP provides objectivity and a contrarian perspective to decisions and appointments made by the government.