What is the mandate of the Leader of Opposition in the Indian democracy? Who can be called the leader of the opposition? What is its significance? Read further to know more.
Leader of Opposition- Background:
The Leader Of the Opposition is the leader of the largest opposition party in the parliament.
G V Mavalankar was the first Speaker of Lok Sabha. Under the rules formulated by him, the single largest opposition party must have a strength of at least 10% of the total strength of the House in order to designate its leader as the Leader of the opposition.
It is a statutory position that is defined in the 1977 Salaries and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act.
Leader Of Opposition-Current Discussions:
Congress is currently the second largest party and got 44 seats in the 16th Lok Sabha and 52 in the 17th Lok Sabha. It falls short of the 10% norm.
Congress has been demanding the post of Leader of opposition but the Speaker rejected their proposal citing conventions and norms.
Since no statutory provisions call for a mandatory strength of at least 10% of seats in the House, the decision of the speaker has been criticized by many legal experts.
A petition was filed in the Supreme Court to scrap Mavalankar’s rule since it was non-statutory. The Supreme Court rejected the appeal stating though non-statutory, but Speaker’s statement or procedure that evolved to run the House was outside the purview of judicial review.
Leader Of Opposition- Significance:
The “shadow prime minister” or the “alternative prime minister” are terms used to describe him. If the current administration is toppled or is unable to get a majority in the house of parliament, he also offers a backup administration.
The absence of such a Leader of the Opposition will weaken the democratic spirit since the opposition will be unable to present a united front in opposition to the ruling party.
By offering the administration constructive critique, he also contributes significantly to the government’s functioning in terms of policy and legislative actions.
He also offers a different perspective and aids in the representation of one that differs from the government’s.
The opposition leader, among other things, also keeps an eye out for violations of minorities’ rights and calls for debates when the government tries to evade parliamentary scrutiny.
He is essential in ensuring impartiality and bipartisanship in the nominations made to institutions that promote accountability and openness.
Comparison with other Countries
- Britain: Officially, the opposition is known as Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. To counterbalance the ruling cabinet and position its members for future ministerial positions, they also establish the Shadow Cabinet.
- United States: Minority parties in Congress are accountable to the President. A healthy democracy must allow for the fundamental right to disagree. The inclusion of LoP lends objectivity and a contrarian viewpoint to the government’s selections and conclusions.
Need For the Leader of Opposition:
The leader of the opposition acts as a measure of check and balance in appointing chiefs of bodies like CVC, CBI, etc.
For instance: In 2011, Smt. Sushma Swaraj drew attention to inconsistencies in Mr. P J Thomas’ selection as CVC. The SC upheld her claim and later overturned Thomas’ appointment.
Parliamentary democracy will be weakened by the lack of an opposition leader since the opposition won’t be able to present a united front against the ruling party.
The opposition’s major responsibility is to challenge the current administration and make those in power answerable to the people. In defending the nation’s citizens’ best interests, the opposition leader bears equal responsibility.
The role of the leader of the opposition is essential to the proper operation of the opposition in Parliament, regardless of who wins the majority. Now that the Leader of the opposition is recognized by law, it cannot be disregarded or weakened, regardless of how flexible or ambiguous the legal system may be.
When no opposition party wins 55 or more seats, a crisis arises. In these circumstances, the leader of the numerically largest opposition party may be considered to be appointed as the opposition leader by the speaker.
Article written by Rahul Ravi