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Rahul Gandhi’s Role as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha

An opposition party needs at least 55 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha to claim the post
06:43 AM Jun 30, 2024 IST | Ashok Bhan
rahul gandhi’s role as leader of the opposition in the lok sabha

At 54, Rahul Gandhi has assumed the pivotal role of Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha, a position previously held by his family members. Rajiv Gandhi was the first in 1989-90, followed by Sonia Gandhi from 1999-2004.


While not a constitutional post, the Leader of the Opposition grants Rahul Gandhi certain powers, including participating in the appointment process for civil servants and public officials to key positions.


This role is recognized under the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977, which defines the Leader of the Opposition as the member who leads the largest opposition party in either the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha.


Often referred to as the “shadow prime minister,” the Leader of the Opposition forms a shadow cabinet to mirror the government’s cabinet, preparing to assume control if the government falls. After a decade, the Lok Sabha now has a Leader of the Opposition as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi steps into this role.


Despite being the second-largest party in 2014 and 2019, the Congress could not claim this position due to insufficient seats. An opposition party needs at least 55 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha to claim the post. In the 2014 general election, the Congress secured only 44 seats, and in 2019, it won 52 seats, still falling short. However, with an improved performance in the 2024 election, winning 99 seats, the Congress has reclaimed its role as the principal opposition party in the country.


The position of Leader of the Opposition has historical roots dating back to the pre-Independence era, with figures like Motilal Nehru receiving early recognition. Post-Independence, the LoP has continued to play a vital role in India’s parliamentary democracy, with Dr. Ram Subhag Singh serving as the first Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha from 1969 to 1971.


Rahul Gandhi’s role as Leader of the Opposition is crucial in providing checks and balances on the ruling government, ensuring diverse perspectives and alternative viewpoints are represented. He will have a say in the appointment of key bureaucrats and be a member of essential committees, including Public Accounts, Public Undertakings, Estimates, and various Joint Parliamentary Committees. He will also be part of selection committees responsible for appointing heads of statutory bodies like the Central Vigilance Commission, the Central Information Commission, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the National Human Rights Commission of India, and the Lokpal.


In the absence of a recognized Leader of the Opposition, the largest opposition party’s leader is inducted into the selection committee as per the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003. Rahul Gandhi’s inclusion ensures the opposition’s participation in crucial decisions, even though the government holds a 2-1 advantage on most selection panels.

As Leader of the Opposition, Rahul Gandhi enjoys the rank of a cabinet minister, along with an office and staff in the Parliament building. In his first appearance in this role, he wore a traditional white kurta-pajama, signaling a blend of tradition and modernity.

Demonstrating a rare moment of camaraderie between the opposition and treasury benches, Rahul Gandhi congratulated Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, shook hands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and accompanied them to the Speaker’s chair, showcasing high parliamentary traditions.

Congress President Kharge hailed the decision, expressing confidence in Rahul Gandhi’s ability to raise the voice of the marginalized and the poor. Leaders across the political spectrum expressed happiness on his accepting the position of LoP. Several leaders lauded and thanked Rahul Gandhi for accepting the position, hoping he would remain the voice of the people in Parliament. Congress deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, Pramod Tiwari, emphasized that the voices of the people, previously crushed, will now echo fearlessly through Rahul Gandhi.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK supremo M.K. Stalin welcomed Rahul Gandhi to his new role, while former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel expressed pride and happiness for Rahul Gandhi’s appointment. Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Anand Dubey also highlighted Gandhi’s significant role in the INDIA bloc, appreciating his appointment as the Leader of the Opposition.

Rahul Gandhi, a scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family and a five-term MP currently representing the Rae Bareli constituency, took his oath while holding a copy of the Constitution, symbolizing his commitment to upholding democratic values and principles.

On his first day in the Lok Sabha, Rahul Gandhi stated that while the ruling coalition has the duty to govern in accordance with the rule of law, the opposition has the mandate to raise the voice for pressing issues of the people and create checks and balances on the excessive exercise of power by the government.

The ruling NDA needs to rise above coalition compulsions and demonstrate a democratic and tolerant political temperament by conceding the post of Deputy Speaker to the opposition in the Lok Sabha.

Ashok Bhan, Senior Advocate Supreme Court of India and a Geo-Political Analyst