Allocation of Election Symbol

election symbols
election symbols

 Concept

  • The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 is a significant legal document in Indian electoral law.
  • It was issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI) under the authority granted by the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • This order primarily deals with the reservation and allotment of symbols to political parties and independent candidates contesting elections in India.

Reservation of Symbols:

  • The order reserves certain symbols for recognized national and state political parties. These symbols are exclusive to these parties and are typically associated with their identity or ideology.
  • Examples include the Indian National Congress’ symbol of a hand, Bharatiya Janata Party’s lotus symbol, etc.
  • Reserved symbols are not available for use by any other party or independent candidate during elections.
  • This helps in maintaining the distinct identity of each political party and avoiding confusion among voters.

Allotment of Symbols:

  • Unrecognised political parties and independent candidates are allotted symbols from a list of symbols reserved for them.
  • This list includes a wide range of symbols representing various objects, animals, and cultural icons.
  • Parties and candidates need to apply for their preferred symbol during the nomination process. The Election Commission then allocates symbols based on availability and other considerations.

Symbol List:

  • The Election Commission maintains a detailed list of symbols available for allotment. This list is periodically updated, and symbols may be added or removed based on various factors.
  • Symbols in the list cover a broad spectrum, including symbols like bicycle, mango, cup and saucer, tractor, television, etc. The diversity of symbols ensures that parties and candidates can choose a symbol that resonates with their message or constituency.

Recognition Criteria:

  • Political parties seeking recognition must fulfill certain criteria set by the Election Commission. These criteria typically include:
  • Performance in past elections, such as securing a certain percentage of votes or winning a minimum number of seats.
  • Organizational strength, including the presence of party units in multiple states and adherence to internal democracy norms.
  • Compliance with legal requirements and regulations governing political parties.
  • Recognition affords parties privileges such as a reserved symbol, access to voter rolls, and eligibility for state funding.

Independent Candidates:

  • Independent candidates can also choose a symbol from the list reserved for independent candidates.
  • This provision allows independent candidates to be easily identified on the ballot, helping voters differentiate them from party candidates.

What is the issue now:

  • In recent Tamil Nadu elections, the Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) saw its vote share rise, reaching 3.9% in 2019 and 6.5% in 2021. Consequently, the NTK has been allocated a new common symbol, namely the microphone (Mike).
  • The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), which garnered 1.09% and 0.99% of votes in 2019 and 2021, was denied  the cooking pot (Pot) symbol. This differential treatment of political parties in symbol allocation has sparked debates regarding the fairness of the process for ‘registered unrecognised parties.’
  • Under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 (Symbols Order), the Election Commission of India (ECI) designates political parties as either ‘national’ or ‘state’ parties based on specific criteria. This recognition carries significance in symbol allocation during elections, as parties designated as national or state parties are entitled to certain privileges.

How does EC grant national status to a party?

  • A political party is recognised as a national party if it meets any of the three conditions outlined in the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968:
  • First, it must receive at least six per cent of the votes cast in four or more states in Lok Sabha or assembly elections, and it must also have at least four Lok Sabha members.
  • Second, it holds at least two per cent of the Lok Sabha seats and has candidates from at least three states.
  • Third, at least four states recognise it as a state party.

State party

  • A party should secure at least six per cent of valid votes polled in an election to the state legislative assembly and win at least two seats in that state assembly.
  • A party should secure at least six per cent of valid votes polled in an election to Lok Sabha and win at least one seat in Lok Sabha.
  • A party should win at least three per cent of the total number of seats or any fraction thereof allotted to that state.
  • Under the liberalised criteria, one more clause that it will be eligible for recognition as state party if it secures eight per cent or more of the total valid votes polled in the state.

How,symbols allocated to Unrecognised registered party

  • According to Rule 10B of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968:
  • Concession of Common Free Symbol: A ‘registered unrecognised party’ is eligible for the concession of a common free symbol for two consecutive general elections.
  • Eligibility for Subsequent Elections: For subsequent general elections, a party can avail of a common symbol if it had secured at least 1% of the total votes polled in the State during the previous election when the party used the common symbol facility.
  • Application Procedure: The unrecognised party must apply for a symbol in the prescribed format for each election. This application can be submitted anytime during the six months prior to the expiry of the term of the Lok Sabha or State Assembly, as applicable.
  • First-come-first-served Basis: Symbols are allocated to parties on a ‘first-come-first-served’ basis once they have submitted their application within the specified timeframe.
  • These provisions aim to provide opportunities for registered unrecognised parties to participate effectively in elections by ensuring fair access to symbols. It establishes a systematic process for symbol allocation, promoting transparency and equity in the electoral process.

What can be done

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) may consider amending the rules to grant registered unrecognised parties, securing at least 1% of votes polled in a previous election or having an elected representative in the Lok Sabha or State Assembly, the right to choose a common symbol.

    This would ensure a fair weightage being given for their past electoral performance and strengthen the democratic process.

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