Sunday, June 08, 2014

Who is the opposition in 16th Lok Sabha?

New Delhi: With its tally of 44 falling short of the 10 per cent count in a House of 543, the BJP is now quite certain that Congress will not be able to claim the post of the Leader of Opposition, and therefore the position of the official Opposition party.
The other parties with decent numbers, AIADMK (37), TMC (34) and BJD (20) are not strictly part of the Opposition because they have kept their options open, of supporting or opposing the BJP-led NDA government of prime minister Narendra Modi on the basis of issues.
The issue becomes important because the BJP wants to distribute the positions due to an Opposition – the post of deputy speaker, the chairman of public accounts committee (PAC), the most prestigious of parliamentary panels which has always been the preserve of the Opposition – among parties other than the Congress as well. The argument is that with just 44 seats, the Congress cannot expect to walk away with all the plum posts.
The BJP sources have made it clear that there is no precedent of recognising a grouping of different parties as Opposition. “An opposition party has to be a single one. It cannot be a coalition of parties,” said a BJP minister speaking on condition of anonymity.
AIADMK’s Maithreyan, member of the Rajya Sabha, asked about whether there will be floor coordination between the AIADMK, TMC and BJD on the Opposition benches, said, “Madam (AIADMK secretary-general and Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa) has said that the AIADMK will play the role of a constructive political party.” Interestingly, the word “opposition party” has been studiously avoided.
Bhatrihari Mahtab of the BJD is quite clear that the “Congress is not the principal opposition party”. He says that it is not entitled to walk away with the positions due to an opposition. What is the position of the BJD? Is it going to support and oppose the government on the basis of issues? Mahtab has a clear answer: “We (the BJD) are in the opposition.” He said that there was as yet no move about floor coordination with other parties in the opposition. Derek O’Brien, TMC member of Rajya Sabha, said that there is as yet no move about floor coordination among opposition parties.
The opposition is not only weak in terms of numbers – there are about 100 plus without AIADMK, TMC and BJD – but they are split among a score of parties. In the 16th Lok Sabha, there are 36 parties. The BJP will have to deal with a splintered opposition, which will make things easy in a way, but it could also make it messy because it has to deal with so many of them.

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