Will Goa get Leader of Opposition?

The Leader of Opposition is leader of the largest party in opposition to the majority party. It is a statutory post defined in the Salaries and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977. The  “Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977’  only says that the largest opposition party should get the post. There is no mention or embargo of any “minimum 10% of the strength of the House”.

Though ‘not less than 10% of the strength of the House is loosely mentioned as a convention, it does not have the backing of the statute. There is no ambiguity in the statute which gives the numerically largest party in the opposition the right to have a leader recognized as the leader of the opposition by the Speaker. In the Delhi assembly, the only opposition party, namely the Bharatiya Janata Party, got the post of leader of the opposition although it had only three members in an assembly of 70 members. The BJP was the numerically largest opposition party to the AAP government in the assembly. (2015)

The Act states that LOP is the Leader in that House of the party in opposition to the Government having the greatest numerical strength and recognized as such by the Speaker of the House. The procedure for recognising the leader of the opposition is well laid down.

On a request being made by the numerically largest party in the opposition, its designated leader be recognised as the leader of the opposition. The statute gives the numerically largest party in the opposition the right to have a leader recognised as leader of the opposition by the Speaker. The Speaker should keep the hands off from formulating any new rules in an area where a clear statute exists.

When a request comes from the largest party in opposition, the speaker is legally bound to recognise the leader of that party as the leader of the opposition. No power of discretion is vested in the speaker in the matter of recognising the leader of the opposition. The Office of the Leader of the Opposition is covered under a statute. “Recognising a member of the house as leader of opposition is not a political or arithmetical decision, but a statutory decision. The speaker has to merely ascertain whether the party claiming this post is the largest party in the opposition. “ (P. D. T, Achary, former Secretary General of the Lok Sabha)

The Rules and procedures of the Goa State Legislature defines “Leader of Opposition” as under:

“Leader of Opposition” means the leader of the largest single party and recognized by the Speaker as such.

It is a triple test:

  1. He should be a member of the House
  2. Of the party in opposition to the Government having the greatest numerical strength and
  3. Be recognised by the Speaker of the House.

The Speaker could have a discretion when there are two or more parties in opposition to the Government, having the same numerical strength. In such a case,  the Speaker shall, having regard to the status of parties recognise any one of the leaders of such parties as the Leader of the Opposition and such recognition shall be final and conclusive.

The Opposition is of greater significance in a parliamentary democracy as democracy cannot work without debate, dissent and the representation including preferential treatment to the opposition voice. The Speaker is the final guardian of the state assembly and the culture of parliamentary democracy. The question is not whether the Congress party or any other political party gets the post of LOP in the assembly. The fundamental issue is that Goa should get the Leader of Opposition in the state legislature.