With no clarity on the Congress getting the Leader of Opposition status in Lok Sabha, senior leader Kamal Nath today said the party "must" go to court if Speaker Sumitra Mahajan's decision, which could be "flavoured" by the Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi, went against it.
Insisting that there is no rule, which says that a party cannot get LoP status unless it has 10 per cent of the total strength of the 543-member Lok Sabha, the former parliamentary affairs minister said in Delhi that while a Speaker is generally neutral when it comes to dealing with Parliamentary processes, it may be different in a contentious situation.
In Hyderabad, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said everyone must abide by the presiding officer's decision. "There was no Opposition Leader during Nehruji's regime. There was no Opposition Leader during Indira Gandhi's era. Opposition Leader was not there in Rajiv Gandhi's rule," Naidu contended.
Picking on the BJP, Nath said, "We know the Speaker is from the BJP... the Speaker is appointed by a political party... when it is a contentious situation... It (the decision on LoP) will be flavoured by the BJP and Modi," Nath told Karan Thapar on 'Nothing But the Truth' programme on Headlines Today.
He was replying to a question on why he was raising fingers on the intention of the government in this matter when the decision on the LoP will be taken by the Speaker.
While hastening to add that what he says "does not mean that she is acting on the behest of somebody", Nath insisted, "But there is always a flavour."
He also said that if the Speaker rules against the Congress on the LoP issue, it would be right and proper for the Congress to go to the court. "Certainly, we must. It should be one of the options," he said.
At the same time he said that the Congress won't retaliate or be obstructive in Parliament simply because the LoP status is denied to it as party President Sonia Gandhi won't like it.
Tossing the ball in the Speaker's court, Naidu said, "It is people's verdict and matter related
Nath also vehemently countered the contention that Rahul Gandhi is reluctant to take responsibility and cited instances from last 30 years when the Leader of House of a party and its president were two different persons.
On the threat of the Congress moving the court, Naidu retorted, "They have got every right to go to court. You can go to court for not getting the prime minister's post also. Anybody can go to court in this country for any thing. Many people go to courts. They have got every right to go. The Constitution permits it. Let them go."
"But people's court has decided. People have given a mandate. We are in a democracy. These things cannot be decided by the judiciary. They have to be decided by people," he said.
The Speaker had on Saturday steered clear of the issue despite the Congress pitching for it. Mahajan had earlier said she will take a decision on the issue before the budget session, which commences on Monday, after consulting constitutional experts and "experienced" persons.
While the Congress secured 44 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, government managers have said it was less than the requisite strength of 10 per cent of the House's total strength to make the party eligible to get the LoP post.
Insisting that the powers of the Speaker are "neither arbitrary, nor unbridled or unilateral" on deciding the issue, Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala had said the LoP post is a "constitutional right" of the Congress as the biggest party in the opposition as also the biggest pre-poll alliance.
Asked about remarks by Congress leaders that getting the LoP position is their right, Naidu said that the Congress was not able to accept its electoral defeat.
"People have decided whatever they had to decide. We hope that the Congress and all of us together run the Parliament and do good for people and make efforts for country's development," the senior BJP leader said.