TOPIC: Leader of the Opposition
Topic in syllabus: General studies 2: Indian Polity
With the formation of the 17th Lok Sabha, the question of a formally recognised Opposition party and Leader of the Opposition (LoP) of the Lok Sabha under the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977, will arise. The Act extends to LoPs in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
What is Leader of Opposition?
- Opposition party and Leader of the Opposition (LoP) of the Lok Sabha is appointed under the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977.
- The 1977 Act defines LoP as that member of the House who is the “Leader in that House of the party in opposition to the Government having the greatest numerical strength and recognised as such by the Chairman of the Council of States or the Speaker of the House of the People, as the case may be.”
- The Act extends to LoPs in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha the same official status, allowances and perks that are admissible to Cabinet Ministers.
Appointment of Leader of opposition
- In the case of the Lok Sabha, this is subject to recognition of the leader by the Speaker. The Speaker’s decisions in this regard have so far been determined by Direction 121(c) which laid down one of the conditions for recognition of party or group as having “at least a strength equal to the quorum fixed to constitute a sitting of the House, that is one-tenth of the total number of members of the House”.
- The Leaders and Chief Whips of Recognised Parties and Groups in Parliament (Facilities) Act, 1998 also refers to a recognised party in the Lok Sabha as a party that has not less than 55 members.
- It is important to note that the single party and not an alliance must meet the 10% seat criteria in this regard.
Significance of Leader of opposition
A party might not be able to form the government at the center because of the lack of majority, but that doesn’t take away the responsibility of acting as a watchdog of the ruling party. For a healthy Parliamentary democracy it is always considered essential that there should be a strong opposition, which should always be in a position to saddle itself in authority.
The incumbent should offer constructive criticism of government policies. He/she has to ensure that House proceeds expeditiously and holds adequate debate on pressing issues.
Recommendations for improvement
In order to get the designation as the Opposition party, the party must have secured at least 10% of the total number of seats in the parliament. Thus the “party” should be replaced ‘party or pre-poll alliance’.
Pre-poll alliances have credibility and legitimacy the President and Governors while deciding on who to call first for forming the government in cases where no party secures a clear majority support in the House, move to call pre-poll alliance.
It has the potential for the growth of a sound two- or three-party (or alliance) system. It could end the present system of having more than 2,000 parties being registered with the Election Commission.
It may provide for candidates of an alliance contesting on a common symbol and an agreed common minimum programme with only national alliances or parties contesting for the Lok Sabha.
Considering the importance of role played by the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, do you think there is need to modify eligibility criteria for recognition of leader of opposition?