Leader of the Opposition (India)
|Leader of the Opposition of India|
Emblem of India
|Term length||5 years|
|Inaugural holder||A K Gopalan|
While the position also existed in former Central Legislative Assembly of British India, and holders of it there included Motilal Nehru, it received statutory recognition through the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977 which defines the term "Leader of the Opposition" as that member of the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha who, for the time being, is the Leader of that House of the Party in Opposition to the Government having the greatest numerical strength and recognised, as such, by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha or the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
As per the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977" by which the post has got official and statutory status, the majority required is decided by the heads of the houses, that is speaker and chairman as the case may be. Clause 4 of The Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, provides for the leader of the largest opposition party to be inducted as a member of the selection committee in a scenario where the lower house of parliament does not have a recognised leader of the opposition.
Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha
|–||Vacant||No official opposition||26 January 1952 – 4 April 1957||First|
|4 April 1957 – 4 March 1962||Second|
|No official opposition||4 April 1962 – 4 March 1967||Third|
|4 March 1967 – 12 December 1969||Fourth|
|1||Ram Subhag Singh||Indian National Congress (O)||17 December 1969 – 27 December 1970|
|–||Vacant||No official opposition||27 December 1970 – 30 June 1977||Fifth|
|2||Yashwantrao Chavan||Indian National Congress||1 July 1977 – 11 April 1978||Sixth|
|3||C. M. Stephen||12 April 1978 – 9 July 1979|
|(2)||Yashwantrao Chavan||10 July 1979 –28 July 1979|
|4||Jagjivan Ram||Janata Party||29 July 1979 – 22 August 1979|
|–||Vacant||No official opposition||22 August 1979 – 31 December 1984||Seventh|
|31 December 1984 – 18 December 1989||Eighth|
|5||Rajiv Gandhi||Indian National Congress||18 December 1989 – 23 December 1990||Ninth|
|6||L. K. Advani||Bharatiya Janata Party||24 December 1990 – 13 March 1991|
|21 June 1991 – 26 July 1993||Tenth|
|7||Atal Bihari Vajpayee||21 July 1993 – 10 May 1996|
|8||P. V. Narasimha Rao||Indian National Congress||16 May 1996 – 31 May 1996||Eleventh|
|(7)||Atal Bihari Vajpayee||Bharatiya Janata Party||1 June 1996 – 4 December 1997|
|9||Sharad Pawar||Indian National Congress||19 March 1998 – 26 April 1999||Twelfth|
|10||Sonia Gandhi||31 October 1999 – 6 February 2004||Thirteenth|
|(6)||L. K. Advani||Bharatiya Janata Party||21 May 2004 – 18 May 2009||Fourteenth|
|11||Sushma Swaraj||21 December 2009 – 19 May 2014||Fifteenth|
|-||Vacant||No official opposition||20 May 2014 – 29 May 2019||Sixteenth|
|30 May 2019 – present||Seventeenth|
Leaders of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha
In Rajya Sabha until 1969, there was no Leader of the Opposition in real sense of the term. Till then, the practice was to call the Leader of the party in Opposition having the largest number of the members as the Leader of the Opposition, without according him any formal recognition, status or privilege. The office of Leader of the Opposition was given official recognition through the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of the Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977. This Act defines the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, as a member of the Council of States who is, for the time being, the Leader in that House of the party in opposition to the Government constituting the greatest numerical strength and recognised as such by the Chairman of the Council of States. Thus, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha should satisfy three conditions, namely,
- he should be a member of the House
- of the party in opposition to the Government having the greatest numerical strength and
- be recognised by the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha (Vice-president of India)
The Leader of the Opposition holds an Office similar to the one that arose in England out of practice, although it has no official functions as per legislation or to the rules of the House. In England. Her Majesty's Opposition is Her Majesty's alternative Government. Her Majesty's Opposition is, therefore, second in importance to Her Majesty's Government and the Leader of the Opposition is almost Her Majesty's alternative Prime Minister.
Technically, however, he/she is only the leader for the time being of the Chief Opposition Party. There may be several parties in opposition, but the Opposition means the second main party temporarily in a minority, with leaders experienced in office, who are ready when the time arises, to form an alternative government. This affords a guarantee that its criticism will be directed by a consistent policy and conducted with responsibility-not in spirit calculated to ruin the game for the sake of the prize.
The task of the Leader of the Opposition is not so difficult as that of the Leader of the House, but it is nevertheless of considerable importance. Opposition is an essential part of democratic government. What is expected from an opposition is effective criticism. It is therefore not untrue to say that the most important part of Parliament is the Opposition. Government governs and opposition criticises. Both of them thus have functions and rights.
Attacks upon the Government and upon individual Ministers are the function of the Opposition. The duty of the Opposition is to oppose. That duty is the major check upon corruption and defective administration. It is also the means by which individual injustices are prevented. This duty is hardly less important than that of government. The apparent absurdity that the opposition asks for parliamentary time to be set aside by the Government in order that the Opposition may censure the Government, is not an absurdity at all. It is the recognition by both sides of the House that the Government governs openly and honestly and that it is prepared to meet criticism not by secret police and concentration camps but by rational argument.
In fact, opposition and government are carried on alike by agreement. The minority agrees that the majority must govern, and the majority agrees that the minority should criticise. The process of parliamentary government will break down if there was absence of mutual forbearance. The Prime Minister meets the convenience of the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition meets the convenience of the Government. Only by this method, can the system of parliamentary government sustain. The Opposition has no right to obstruct, in the sense of making Parliament barren or unproductive. It would he the clearest proof of the triumph of party spirit over parliamentary spirit if any government set out to whittle away the rights of the opposition. The uninterrupted respect for the rights of the opposition which government shows should be accepted as prima-facie evidence of the soundness of its parliamentary faith.
In view of the importance of the opposition in a parliamentary democracy, the office of the Leader of the Opposition is indeed one of responsibility. He, among other things, watches for encroachments on the rights of minorities, demands debates when the Government is trying to slide away without parliamentary criticism He must be in his place even more constantly than the Prime Minister. He must be familiar with all the tricks of skilled parliamentarian and all the opportunities of the rules of the House. It is excellent training for the future occupants of the Treasury Bench and essential for the effective operation of democratic government. " In performing his duties and obligations, the Leader of the Opposition has to take into account not only what he is today but what he hopes to be tomorrow. In the words of Harold Macmillan: "There is, I suppose, no position more difficult and in some ways more unrewarding than that of a Leader of an Opposition-to criticise, to find fault, and at the same time, of course, to develop his own proposals and policies without the power to implement them. It is in a sense unrewarding, because any man who is conscious of administrative capacity and the desire to operate his own plans must feel all the time a sense of frustration.
Equally, under India's almost unique system of government, the Leader of an Opposition has a very special responsibility towards the Parliament and to the nation. At moments of danger, moments specialty of foreign danger, and particularly also in matters affecting the security and safety of the realms. While he remains a critic he must in a sense be, a partner and even a. buttress of the Government to which he is opposed. This dual responsibility he must discharge with fidelity".
In India, Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha are accorded statutory recognition. The Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977, defines the Leader of the Opposition, in relation to either House of Parliament, as '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 the explanation to the said definition it has been clarified that where there are two or more parties in opposition to the Government, in the Council of States or in the House of the People, having the *According to directions issued by the Presiding Officers of both the Houses the minimum numerical strength required for recognition as a political party is one tenth of the total membership of the House.same numerical strength, the Chairman of the Council of States or the Speaker of the House of the People, as the case may be, shall, having regard to the status of the parties, recognise any one of the Leaders of such parties as the Leader of the Opposition for the purposes of this section and such recognition shall be final and conclusive.
He is given the salary of Rs.4000/- per mensem a daily allowance of Rs.400/-, a constituency allowance of Rs. 8,000/- per mensem. conveyance allowance of Rs. 3000/- per mensem (if not provided with a conveyance and a driver) and a sumptuary allowance of Rs.3000/- per mensem, travelling allowance in respect of not more than six return journeys performed, during each year in the country, a free and fully furnished residence and other telephones, secretarial assistance and medical facilities.
The Public Accounts Committee recommended that the Leader of the largest recognised Opposition Party (whether a regular party or a party composed of different parties or groups) should be recognised as the Leader of the Opposition. According to the Committee, it would be a healthy parliamentary convention if the Leader of the Opposition is invited by the Prime Minister before the latter makes any policy statement in the House and is given a copy of the statement in advance, and his suggestions for fixing any particular business on a particular day are, as far as possible, accepted by the Speaker and the Leader of the House. The Committee suggested that the Leader of the Opposition should be paid a salary, and provided with office as well as residential accommodation and some secretarial staff.
It was only in 1969 that for the first time since Independence, the two Houses had recognised Opposition Party [Congress Party (Opposition) formed after the split in the Congress Party in November, 1969] and a Leader of the Opposition in each House.
In the Rajya Sabha, in December, 1969, the Congress Party in Parliament (Opposition) was recognised as' a Party and its Leader, Shyam Nandan Mishra as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha by reason of that Party's following of 39 in a House of 240. After Shyam Nandan Mishra ceased to be a member of the House by reason of his election to the Lok Sabha, M. S. Gurupadaswamy who was elected the Leader, was recognised in the Rajya Sabha. However, no formal announcement in the matter was made in the House although he was described as such in the proceedings.
Following members have been the Leaders of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
|–||Vacant||No official opposition||January 1952 – December 1969|
|1||Shyam Nandan Prasad Mishra||Indian National Congress (O)||December 1969 – March 1971|
|2||M. S. Gurupadaswamy||March 1971 – April 1972|
|3||Kamalapati Tripathi||Indian National Congress||30 March 1977 – 15 February 1978|
|4||Bhola Paswan Shastri||Indian National Congress (O)||24 February 1978 – 23 March 1978|
|(3)||Kamalapati Tripathi||Indian National Congress||23 March 1978 – 8 January 1980|
|5||L. K. Advani||Bharatiya Jana Sangh||21 January 1980 – 7 April 1980|
|6||P. Shiv Shankar||Indian National Congress||18 December 1989 – 2 January 1991|
|(2)||M. S. Gurupadaswamy||Janata Dal||28 June – 21 July 1991|
|7||S. Jaipal Reddy||22 July 1991 – 29 June 1992|
|8||Sikander Bakht||Bharatiya Janata Party||7 July 1992 – 23 May 1996|
|9||Shankarrao Chavan||Indian National Congress||23 May 1996 – 1 June 1996|
|(8)||Sikander Bakht||Bharatiya Janata Party||1 June 1996 – 19 March 1998|
|10||Manmohan Singh||Indian National Congress||21 March 1998 – 21 May 2004|
|11||Jaswant Singh||Bharatiya Janata Party||3 June 2004 – 16 May 2009|
|12||Arun Jaitley||3 June 2009 – 26 May 2014|
|13||Ghulam Nabi Azad||Indian National Congress||8 June 2014 – incumbent|
- "Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977". Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Government of India. Archived from the original on 16 January 2010. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
- Parliament Of India. Legislativebodiesinindia.nic.in. Retrieved on 2014-05-21.
- Rajya Sabha Introduction. Rajyasabha.nic.in. Retrieved on 2014-05-21.