Ahead of the Punjab Assembly elections, scheduled for 14 February, Amarinder Singh’s new party — the Punjab Lok Congress — has received the ‘hockey stick and ball’ as its election symbol.
Taking to Twitter, the party formed by the former Punjab chief minister, said, “Happy to inform that Punjab Lok Congress has received its Party Symbol - Hockey Stick and Ball.”
— Punjab Lok Congress 🇨🇮 (@PunjabLokCong) January 10, 2022
The Amarinder Singh-led party has stitched up an alliance with the BJP and the Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa-led SAD (Sanyukt) for the upcoming polls, for which the results will be announced on 10 March.
As the party preps for the elections, we take a look at how political outfits receive these symbols and the role they play in the polls.
What is an election symbol?
An election symbol is a standardised symbol allocated to a political party. They are used by the parties during their campaigning and are shown on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), where the voter chooses the symbol and votes for the associated party.
The pictorial symbol helps the large percent of illiterate voters to identify the party they want to vote for.
How a party is allotted a symbol?
The party symbols are allocated by the Election Commission under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
The Election Commission of India currently maintains a pool of thousands of symbols — representing aspects of everyday life, from a stack of tires, to a hand, a comb to even an auto-rickshaw.
It is interesting to note that the use of animals as symbols stopped after animal rights activists complained that parties were parading the creatures during campaigns and subjecting them to cruelty. The only exceptions are the lion and the elephant.
Parties must choose three symbols, in order of preference, after which they are allocated one by the ECI.
Once an image is 'reserved,' it cannot be used by any other party. In most cases, the parties offer their own symbols, which the EC is free to choose or not. If the symbol is even remotely similar to a symbol used by another party, the Commission is free to deny them its use and suggest an alternative.
According to the EC rules, symbols of all nationally recognised parties should be standard throughout India.
In the case of state parties, the allotted symbol can be used by no other party in that particular state, but it can be used in a different state. For instance, the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha both use the bow and arrow symbol.
Purpose of the party symbol
The election symbol plays a massive role in elections and is used as a campaigning tool. They are visible across India during election time — on banners, billboards, pamphlets and other materials — as political groups vie for voters' attention.
For example, if you see a lotus, you instantly think of Bharatiya Janata Party; if a politician holds up his palm, it means he is a Congressman.
Such is the power of the election symbol.
Popular party symbols
There are some political parties whose symbols are very popular across the country. For instance, the lotus, the symbol for the Bharatiya Janata Party, is known worldwide. Similarly, the Congress' hand symbol.
Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party uses the elephant as its election symbol. It represents the strength of the minority Dalit community.
The Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh uses the bicycle — the common mode of transport in India — to display its ties with the masses.
Like Communist parties around the world, the symbol of the hammer, sickle and star is also replicated by the Left-wing parties of India.
Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party has the broom as the symbol, signifying that the party is here to sweep away corrupt practices from the country.
With inputs from agencies