Role of Leader of the Opposition in Indian Parliament

10 Jun 2024  Read 2267 Views

Did you know that Rahul Gandhi won from two different constituencies in this Lok Sabha election 2024? However, he must vacate one seat within 14 days. This 18th Lok Sabha is set to look quite different from the previous one.

One of the major highlights of the 2024 election result is that the Congress party won the most seats after the BJP and nominated Rahul Gandhi as the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the Lower House for the first time in 10 years. 

This new development raises many questions about the role and responsibilities of the leader of the opposition. Let's understand everything you need to know about this important political position.

What is a Leader of Opposition?

In each House of Parliament, i.e., the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, there is a Leader of Opposition. 

The LoP is a Member of Parliament (MP) who heads the Opposition and serves as the parliamentary chairperson of the largest party or coalition of parties with the most seats after the ruling party.

The members of that party select the MP for this post. In the British Parliament, the leader of the opposition is called the 'Shadow Prime Minister'.

Who is the Leader of the Opposition?

As per the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977.

"Leader of the Opposition, in relation to either House of Parliament, means that member of the Council of States or the House of the People, as the case may be, who is, for the time being, 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."

In simple terms, the leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha is the leader of a party with the most members in opposition to the government. This leader is officially recognised by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha or the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

If two or more opposition parties have the same number of members, the Chairman of the Council of States or the Speaker of the House of the People will choose one party's leader to be the Leader of the Opposition. This decision is final.

Eligibility for the Leader of Opposition

Despite being such an important post, the leader of the opposition is not defined anywhere in the Constitution or even the Lok Sabha Rules of Procedure.

Recognition of LOP is based on a convention started by the first Speaker of India, G.V. Mavlankar, which is also known as the Mavlankar Rule.

To claim the position of "official opposition" in either house of the parliament, a party has to secure 55 seats (10%) in the Lok Sabha and 25 seats (10%) in the Rajya Sabha.

Origin of the Leader of Opposition

Historically, the first officially recognised Opposition party in Parliament came from a split within the powerful Congress party. In 1969, when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister, the Congress was divided into the Indian National Congress (Requisitionists) and the Indian National Congress (Organisation). 

The leader of INC(O), Ram Subhag Singh, became the first person to be formally recognised as the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Until 1977, no emoluments or perks were given to LoP positions.

In 2014, Congress lost both the election and the Leader of the Opposition position. In 2019, they again didn't have enough seats for the LoP status, falling short of the required 54 seats. However, in the 2024 elections, Congress won 99 seats and will now get the LoP status.

Powers of the Leader of Opposition

The Leader of the Opposition is not just a title; it also comes with several important powers and benefits. The LoP helps decide seat and room assignments in the House, gets access to official documents, helps form parliamentary committees, and manages the daily activities of the House.

  1. The MP in this position will also be a member of important committees like Public Accounts, Public Undertakings, Estimates, and various Joint Parliamentary Committees. 

  2. They are also entitled to be part of selection committees that appoint the heads of key statutory bodies such as the Central Vigilance Commission, the Central Information Commission, the CBI, the NHRC, and the Lokpal, among others.

  3. The main function of the opposition leader is to provide constructive criticism of the government's policies.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is the second chairperson of the opposition party in the house. They also act as a shadow minister. Although this is not an official or constitutional position, it helps provide political stability and strength to the opposition party in the government.

Salary of the Leader of Opposition

  • Each Leader of the Opposition will receive a monthly salary of 1 lakh with daily allowances as specified in Section 3 of the Salary, Allowances, and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954.

  • Apart from a monthly allowance, the opposition leader is entitled to a travelling allowance and medical treatment.

  • They will also get a constituency allowance as given in Section 8 of the Act with respect to Members of Parliament.

  • Additionally, they will receive a sumptuary allowance of ₹ 2,000 per month.

Residence of the Leader of Opposition

  • The Leader of the Opposition can live in a government-provided house rent-free while in office and for one month after leaving office. The house maintenance is also free.

  • Also, they are not required to pay income tax on the value of the rent-free furnished residence and the maintenance provided to it.

  • If the Leader of the Opposition dies, their family can stay in the house for one month without paying rent. After one month, they must pay the government rates for rent, electricity, and water.

Conclusion

In Indian parliamentary discussions, both the leader of the opposition and the leader of the winning party are important. The opposition leader plays an active role in decision-making and offers viewpoints on the government's proposals. Interestingly, the Lok Sabha did not recognise an official Leader of the Opposition until 1969. The position was also vacant between 1980 and 1989 and from 2014 to 2024. This position is crucial for ensuring that the ruling government remains accountable.

About the Author: Anirudh Nikhare | 66 Post(s)

Anirudh did his Bachelor's in Law and has practical experience in IPR, Contracts, and Corporate. He is your go-to legal content writer turning head-scratching legal topics into easy-to-understand gems of wisdom. Through his blog, he aims to empower readers with knowledge, making legal concepts digestible and applicable to everyday life.

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