While the upcoming Bihar assembly elections is being pitted as a contest between the lotus (BJP) and arrow (JD-U) on one side and the hand (Congress) and hurricane lantern (RJD) on the other, voters can also expect to see a myriad of other symbols like chapatti roller, dolli, bangles, capsicum on the ballots as they go out to vote on October 28, November 3 and November 7.
With nearly 60 different parties throwing their hats in the election ring in Bihar, the symbols help the several unrecognised parties and independent candidates differentiate themselves from one another and help voters identify the party of their choice.
The Bharatiya Aam Awam Party, a registered unrecognised political party contesting in all the 243 seats, has been allotted “capsicum” as its symbol. Similarly, the symbol of “pestle and mortar” has been allotted to another unrecognised Hindu Samaj Party, while Aam Adhikar Morcha and Rashtriya Jan Vikas Party will fight on “chapati roller” and “baby walker” symbols, respectively.
Shiv Sena, which was disallowed by the Election Commission last year from using its “bow and arrow” for the Lok Sabha polls in Bihar citing its similarity with the symbol of JD(U), has been allotted the “trumpet” symbol. Pappu Yadav’s Jan Adhikar Party Loktantrik has been issued the “scissors” symbol this time. In the 2015 polls, it had contested on a “hockey stick and ball” symbol.
What is the significance of symbols in elections?
In a vast and diverse country like India, where several nondescript and small political parties try out their luck in state elections, symbols are crucial campaigning tools to connect with the voters. Symbols have become a crucial part of the electoral process ever since India held its first national polls in 1951-52. Since nearly 85 per cent of the electorate were illiterate at that point, visual symbols were allotted to parties and candidates to help them identify the party of their choice.
How many types of symbols are there?
As per the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) (Amendment) Order, 2017, party symbols are either “reserved” or “free”. While eight national parties and 64 state parties across the country have “reserved” symbols, the Election Commission also has a pool of nearly 200 “free” symbols that are allotted to the thousands of unrecognised regional parties that pop up before elections.
According to EC, there are 2,538 unrecognised parties in India. For example, if a party recognised in a particular state contests in elections in another state, it can “reserve” the symbol being used by it, provided the symbol is not being used or bears resemblance to that of any other party.
How are symbols allotted to political parties?
The order, first promulgated in 1968, mandates the Election Commission to provide for “specification, reservation, choice and allotment of symbols at parliamentary and assembly elections, for the recognition of political parties”. As per the guidelines, to get a symbol allotted, a party/candidate has to provide a list of three symbols from the EC’s free symbols list at the time of filing nomination papers. Among them, one symbol is allotted to the party/candidate on a first-come-first-serve basis.
When a recognised political party splits, the Election Commission takes the decision on assigning the symbol. For example, when the Samajwadi Party split, the EC allotted the ‘bicycle’ to the Akhilesh Yadav faction.
Similarly, following Jayalalithaa’s death, the AIADMK split into two factions and both had staked claim to the iconic two leaves election symbol, leading the EC to freeze the symbol. After hearing, the EC allotted the two leaves symbol to the Palaniswami-Panneerselvam faction, ruling that they enjoyed the support of the majority in the AIADMK’s legislative and organisational wings.
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