In a setback for the Congress, attorney general (AG) Mukul Rohatgi has said the party has no case for claiming the Leader of Opposition (LoP) post, saying there is no precedence since the days of the first Lok Sabha when Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister.
Rohatgi has conveyed this to Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan who had sought his opinion in view of the dilemma she is facing over the issue, sources said.
The AG has said Congress is not eligible as it does not have the required 10% (55 seats) in the 543-member Lok Sabha, a source said. Congress has only 44 seats.
To back his opinion, the AG has said there is no precedence wherein a party was given the LoP position — the status of a cabinet minister — without meeting the criteria of 10% seats since the days of first Lok Sabha when GV Mavlankar was the speaker, they said. Even during the time of Rajiv Gandhi, Congress with over 400 seats had refused to grant LoP status to TDP for the same reason, the AG has told the Speaker. The AG is also learnt to have rejected the contention that LoP status could be given to the leader of Congress-led UPA coalition as there is no such precedence.
Lok Sabha Secretariat officials refused to make any comment, saying a decision in the matter was yet to be taken. Mahajan, who has been facing a tough situation on taking a call on the tricky issue, has said that she would consult legal and constitutional experts besides experienced persons in firming up a decision. Reacting to the development, Congress, which has recently upped the ante over the issue, hoped that the Speaker will “not be misguided” by the opinion of the AG.
“The attorney general represents the government's opinion. He articulates the government’s viewpoint. The government has nothing to do with it (LoP issue); it is the domain of the speaker,” Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmed said.