New Delhi: Government today hit out at Congress for targeting Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan over the issue of Leader of Opposition (LoP) status, saying it reflected the party's "desperation" and claimed it was "people's mandate" that it should not even get the LoP post.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prakash Javadekar said that "casting aspersions" on the Speaker was "outrageous, condemnable and unacceptable", adding, "If people have not given them mandate to rule, people have not even chosen 55 of them, what can we do? How can we help?"
His statement came close on the heels of Congress leader Amarinder Singh alleging that no decision by the Speaker on the issue of the Leader of Opposition till now has raised fears that she could be "influenced" by the government.
"To cast aspersions on the Speaker shows the desperation of Congress..... People have not given them Leader of Opposition. It is the people's mandate," Javadekar said.
Talking to reporters outside Parliament, senior Congress leader Kamal Nath also targeted Mahajan, saying "some parties are feeling that many of the issues which they want to raise are not being given importance which they need to be given."
Reacting to the criticism, Javadekar said, "Congress leaders' reactions are outrageous and actually an aspersion on the Speaker.... The Speaker is of the House. And whoever is in the chair, they act in a neutral way.
"To cast aspersion on the Speaker is absolutely outrageous, condemnable and unacceptable."
When asked about the Congress' allegation, the Speaker said she cannot comment on such issues.
Amarinder Singh, who is also the Congress' deputy leader in Lok Sabha, had charged the Narendra Modi government with being "petty" and "unfair" to Congress in not granting the official Leader of Opposition's post and feared that key appointments like that of Central Vigilance Commissioner and others would not be made fairly.
Mahajan is yet to take a decision on the issue of Leader of Opposition in the lower house.
Congress with 44 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha has emerged as the second largest party after BJP's 282 but fell short by 11 seats to stake claim for the LoP, for which it requires a strength of 55.
As per Direction 121 of the 'Directions of the Speaker', the Speaker should ensure that a Parliamentary party or group should have at least one-tenth of the total number of members of the Lok Sabha for being eligible for getting the LoP post.