What is common to capsicum, vacuum cleaner and tooth brush? They are all symbols up for grabs for any candidate or political party willing to contest in elections.
As per the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, the Election Commission allots symbols for anyone contesting in polls. As of January 11 this year, 164 symbols are available with the Election Commission.
A person contesting on behalf of a recognised political party will inherit the party’s symbol. An independent candidate or someone contesting on behalf of an unrecognised political party has to approach the Commission and get a symbol allotted from the list of ‘free’ symbols available.
A candidate will have to provide three symbols from the free list at the time of submission of nomination papers, one of which will be allocated to him/her. Any choice other than from the EC’s list will be summarily rejected.
In the case of a recognised political party, the Commission allows it to ‘reserve’ a symbol. For example, if a political party recognised in a particular State wishes to contest in elections in another State, it can ‘reserve’ the symbol being used by it. The Commission will oblige, provided the symbol is not being used by anyone else. The All India Forward Bloc, which uses Lion as its symbol in West Bengal, approached the Election Commission and reserved the symbol prior to the recent Uttar Pradesh polls.
Two or more recognised political parties can have the same symbol provided they are not contenders in the same State or Union Territory. Both Federal Party of Manipur and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) use ‘Rising Sun’ as their symbol. But if one of the parties wish to open their account in the other State, it will have to contest on a different symbol. This is why the Bahujan Samaj Party will have to choose a different symbol if it contests in Assam, since Asom Gana Parishad also uses ‘Elephant’ symbol.
The Election Commission may also derecognise a political party if it has not polled at least six per cent of votes or won two seats in the State elections. In case of a national party, it should have polled minimum six per cent votes and 2 MLAs in at least four States. Until 1997, unrecognised parties would lose their symbols. Later, the EC modified its order to allow them to retain its symbol.
In case a recognised political party splits, the Commission decides which faction can use the symbol. In the case of Samajwadi Party, the EC allotted ‘Bicycle’ to the Akhilesh Yadav faction. The Commission may also choose to freeze the symbol and ask both factions to contest in fresh symbols, just as how it did with AIADMK’s ‘Two Leaves’ now and with Congress in 1969 when the party had split as Congress (R) and Congress (O).