After Assam party MLA loses status of leader of oppn, Cong claims Speaker acting as BJP agent

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Guwahati, Jan 7 (PTI) Condemning the withdrawal of party MLA Debabrata Saikia's status of Leader of Opposition in the Assam assembly, the Congress on Thursday accused Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami of 'acting as a BJP agent'.

Saikia lost that status as the present strength of the party in the 126-member House is one less than the required number of 21 MLAs, according to an official notification.

Hitendra Nath Goswami is 'acting as a BJP agent rather than the Speaker of the House' and it is 'a clear political move' ahead of the assembly election due in March-April this year, AICC Media Department Chairperson Bobbeeta Sharma said in a statement on Thursday.

The Assam Pradesh Congress Committee secretary Bhupen Kumar Borah and party MP Abdul Khalek have also jointly sent a letter to the Governor for restoration of Saikia's status as the Leader of the Opposition.

'The present strength of the Indian National Congress Legislature Party, Assam Legislative Assembly, is not equal to the quorum fixed to constitute a sitting of the House that is one-sixth of the total number of Members of the House,' the notification issued on January 1 said.

The number MLAs in opposition parties in many states is less than one-sixth of the total members and they still have a Leader of the Opposition, Sharma said in the statement.

Sharma said that as per Section 2 of the Salary and Allowance of the Leader of the Opposition in Assam Legislative Assembly Act, 1978, the Leader of the Opposition' means that member of the Assembly who is, for the time being, the leader of the party in opposition to the government having the greatest numerical strength and recognised as such by the Speaker.

The Act does not state that the number of MLAs in an opposition party should be one-sixth of the total strength of the House to get a Leader of the Opposition, she said.

Pointing out that following resignations and deaths of members, the present strength of the Assam assembly is 119 and not 126, Sharma insisted that Debabrata Saikia should have still been the Leader of Opposition.

'It is obvious that the BJP is using this as an electoral stunt. The people of the state now know what they are and the answer to this will be given in the Assembly elections,' the Congress leader said.

Former minister Ajanta Neog and expelled Congress MLA Rajdeep Goala had resigned from the Assembly and joined the BJP on December 29 last reducing the opposition party's strength in the 126-member House to 20. PTI ESB NN NN