Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Monday made a strong pitch for the party being given the post of Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha contending that it is the single largest party in the opposition.
"We are the single largest party. We have got a pre-poll alliance. Hence, we are entitled to Leader of Opposition's post," Gandhi, who is also Congress Parliamentary Party Chairperson, said in her first comments on the issue.
She, however, said the party has not decided yet whether to approach the judiciary in the matter.
Rejecting the Bharatiya Janata Party's allegation that the Congress was desperate for the post and has not accepted defeat, the Congress chief said, "That is not true. We have lost the elections. We are aware of that."
Senior Congress leader Kamal Nath dubbed as "lame excuse" the BJP's position that the issue was with the Lok Sabha speaker.
"Just saying that there is a direction by the Speaker is a lame excuse to deny the Congress the position. The floor of the House is very different and Parliament is very different what it was two decades ago.”
"Today politics is different. Parliamentary practices are different. Speaker's directions have been changed over years and merely because of the Speaker's direction what they (BJP) are citing is not an adequate reason for not giving the Leader of Opposition post to Congress," Nath told reporters outside Parliament House.
"I don't see what the BJP is afraid of. Was anybody afraid of? It is a mere designation and they should agree to it...It is direction of the Speaker which they are leaning on," he said.
He said, "There is no law which says you need 10 per cent" seats in the Lok Sabha to stake claim for the post of Leader of Opposition.
Earlier in the day, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had slammed Nath for his remarks that Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan's decision on the issue of grant of Leader of Opposition status could be "flavoured" by the BJP.
Responding to questions over Nath's remarks on the LOP issue, Naidu had said, "It is unfortunate that such a comment has been made by a senior leader like Kamal Nath. He must have made such a comment based on his own experience. The matter will be dealt by the Speaker according to the rulebook and precedent. Once elected, the Speaker is above the party."
Image: Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi arrives to address a news conference in New Delhi. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters