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Explained: From baby walker to capsicum, how Election Commission decides on party symbols

14th October, 2020 GOVERNANCE

Context: Bihar Assembly Election 2020: Voters can expect to see a myriad of symbols like chapatti roller, dolli, bangles, capsicum on the ballots.

  • With nearly 60 different parties in Bihar, the symbols help the unrecognised parties and independent candidates differentiate themselves from one another and help voters identify the party of their choice.

What is the significance of symbols in elections?

  • In a vast and diverse country like India, 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 has a pool of nearly 200 “free” symbols that are allotted to the thousands of unrecognised regional parties.
  • 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.