BJP Suggests Changes in Law to Formalise Advani, Sonia Status

BJP has suggested to the government that appropriate changes are made in law and the post of Chairperson of the parliamentary units of both the Congress and the BJP is formalized and granted a Cabinet rank.

Senior BJP leader LK Advani lately stepped down as Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and became the Chairman of BJP’s parliamentary party.

Headed by Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha SS Ahluwalia, senior BJP parliamentary functionaries made the proposal to UPA managers in Parliament on Monday.

They suggested that the move would also benefit UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who doesn’t have any official privileges other than those that come by virtue of being an SPG protectee and spouse of a former Prime Minister.

It may be mentioned that previous UPA government had formed the National Advisory Council (NAC) which Sonia Gandhi chaired, particularly to give her Cabinet rank. Sonia resigned in 2006 and NAC’s term expired in 2008.

However, Congress has not responded to BJP’s proposal as yet. Officials said that for making proposal into a reality, amendments have to be made in the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977.

To create the post of chairman for Advani, the BJP parliamentary party made similar changes in party’s constitution as did the Congress parliamentary party some years ago to make Sonia chairperson of CPP.

The generational shift in the BJP, which saw the elevation of Sushma Swaraj as Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, resulted in Advani losing the Cabinet rank that the Leader of Opposition enjoys under the Constitution.

As per the 1977 Act, the Leaders of Opposition in both Houses enjoy special perks and allowances besides primacy in protocol. The Leader of Opposition is a formal invitee to all functions, and a member of several important committees, which appoint important functionaries like the Chief Information Commissioner, Director, CBI, and Chairman of the Central Vigilance Commission.

The Leader of Opposition is allowed a personal staff of 12, the same as a Cabinet minister. This includes a personal secretary, two assistant personal secretaries, a First PA, a Second PA, a Hindi steno and six other junior staffers. Leaders of Opposition get a daily allowance of Rs 1,000 irrespective of whether Parliament is in session, and a salary. They are entitled to designated offices in Parliament, and RAX (restricted access) phone lines.

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