Leaders in Parliament
Leader of the House
Under the Rules of Lok Sabha, the ‘Leader of the House’ means the prime minister, if he is a member of the Lok Sabha, or a minister who is a member of the Lok Sabha and is nominated by the prime minister to function as the Leader of the House. There is also a ‘Leader of the House’ in the Rajya Sabha. He is a minister and a member of the Rajya Sabha and is nominated by the prime minister to function as such. The leader of the house in either House is an important functionary and exercises direct influence on the conduct of business. He can also nominate a deputy leader of the House. The same functionary in USA is known as the ‘majority leader’.
Leader of the Opposition
In each House of Parliament, there is the ‘Leader of the Opposition’. The leader of the largest Opposition party having not less than one-tenth seats of the total strength of the House is recognised as the leader of the Opposition in that House. In a parliamentary system of government, the leader of the opposition has a significant role to play. His main functions are to provide a constructive criticism of the policies of the government and to provide an alternative government. Therefore, the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were accorded statutory recognition in 1977. They are also entitled to the salary, allowances and other facilities equivalent to that of a cabinet minister. It was in 1969 that an official leader of the opposition was recognised for the first time. The same functionary in USA is known as the ‘minority leader’.
The British political system has an unique institution called the ‘Shadow Cabinet’. It is formed by the Opposition party to balance the ruling cabinet and to prepare its members for future ministerial offices. In this shadow cabinet, almost every member in the ruling cabinet is ‘shadowed’ by a corresponding member in the opposition cabinet. This shadow cabinet serves as the ‘alternate cabinet’ if there is change of government. That is why Ivor Jennings described the leader of Opposition as the ‘alternative Prime Minister’. He enjoys the status of a minister and is paid by the government.
Though the offices of the leader of the House and the leader of the Opposition are not mentioned in the Constitution of India, they are mentioned in the Rules of the House and Parliamentary Statute respectively. The office of ‘whip’, on the other hand, is mentioned neither in the Constitution of India nor in the Rules of the House nor in a Parliamentary Statute. It is based on the conventions of the parliamentary government.
Every political party, whether ruling or Opposition has its own whip in the Parliament. He is appointed by the political party to serve as an assistant floor leader. He is charged with the responsibility of ensuring the attendance of his party members in large numbers and securing their support in favour of or against a particular issue. He regulates and monitors their behaviour in the Parliament. The members are supposed to follow the directives given by the whip. Otherwise, disciplinary action can be taken.
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