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BJP invokes people’s will on LoP post

New Delhi, Aug. 22: The BJP today said “the people of India had chosen not to elect any leader of the Opposition” and “nobody can change it”, the assertion coming on a day the Supreme Court asked the Centre to clarify the issue.

“If the people of India have chosen not to elect any leader of the Opposition, can anybody change it? The people of this country have made an assessment in the election and the assessment is that the Congress is too bad and does not even deserve (the post of the) leader of the Opposition,” BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi said.

The ruling party defended Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s decision denying the Congress the post while the government sought to steer clear of the issue saying it was her domain.

“The government has no say in this matter. It is the discretion of Parliament and the Speaker,” a government source said.

The Congress, however, contended that the court’s move was a vindication of its stand and charged the government with following a “partisan agenda”.

“LoP (leader of the Opposition) has systemic responsibilities in appointments of key functionaries,” Congress spokesperson Salman Khurshid said.

“Times have changed and old arguments cannot be applicable to the LoP post now. The government should respect the SC (Supreme Court’s) observations. There have to be rules for appointment of LoP and (the matter) can’t be left to the government’s fancy.”

But Lekhi suggested the absence of a leader formally recognised as holding the post would not be a hindrance in legislative matters, such as the appointment of the Lokpal, as the leader of the largest Opposition party could be considered.

“For Lokpal, there is no need to have an LoP. It can be done without an LoP,” Lekhi argued.

The BJP leader sought to underline — without referring to the judiciary — the supremacy of the legislature saying the “wisdom of the people” expressed in the elections could not be changed.

Lekhi said the Congress’s tally of 44 Lok Sabha seats was a clear verdict from the people that the party was not eligible for the post.

Speaker Mahajan had earlier this week denied the Congress the post on the ground the party did not have 10 per cent of the total seats in the Lok Sabha. According to a rule cited by Mahajan, the party needs 55 seats to get the post.

“LoP is a legislative status. That status is to be delivered by the legislature and not by any arbitrary authority…. There cannot be any barter,” Lekhi said.