The Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena approached the Election Commission of India recently, requesting it to hear its side before deciding claims to the party’s bow-arrow symbol.

The Shiv Sena has lost a large number of members in the Eknath Shinde-led rebellion that eventually caused the fall of the Thackeray-led government in Maharashtra.


Significance of Party Symbol

The symbol of a party is one of extreme relevance to political survival. For many Indian voters who do not read, the symbol is their association with the party when they exercise their franchise. Hence, the importance is given to the symbol of the party.


Powers of Election Commission in granting party symbols

  • Allocation in case of split in Party — Para 15 of the Symbols Order, 1968, specifies that the Commission has the power to recognise as the party, from splinter groups or rival sections, after taking into account all available facts and circumstances of the case and after hearing all the representatives.
  • Binding decision — The decision of the Commission under Symbols Order, 1968 shall be binding on all such rival sections or groups.
  • Applicability — This applies to disputes in recognised national and state parties. For splits in registered but unrecognised parties, the EC usually advises the warring factions to resolve their differences internally or to approach the court.
  • No recognition — After 1997, the EC did not recognise the new parties as either state or national parties. It felt that merely having MPs and MLAs is not enough, as the elected representatives had fought and won polls on tickets of their parent (undivided) parties.
  • New rule — The EC introduced a new rule under which the splinter group of the party, other than the group that got the party symbol, had to register itself as a separate party, and could lay claim to national or state party status only on the basis of its performance in state or central elections after registration.


Other methods to resolve dispute over party symbols

Strength of elected members — Whenever the EC could not test the strength of rival groups based on support within the party organisation, it took decision based on testing the majority only among elected MPs and MLAs.


Same symbol for different parties

  • Same constituency — If the candidates of two parties having the same symbol are pitted against each other in the same constituency then, as per provisions of Para 12 of the Symbols Order, 1968, “free symbols” will be allotted to both the contestants.
  • Intra-state usage — While national parties are free to use their ‘reserved symbol’ across India, the recognised state parties can use their symbols in their states. To use the symbol outside their state, they have to seek the EC’s permission.
  • Examples — In the 2015 Bihar Assembly election, Samajwadi Party, Panthers Party, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Shiv Sena decided to field their candidates. The EC allowed them to use their symbols except when the two parties having the same symbol chose to contest from the same constituency.


Parties having same symbol

  • Federal Party of Manipur and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Tamil Nadu use ‘Rising Sun‘ as their symbol.
  • Bahujan Samaj Party and Asom Gana Parishad have ‘Elephant‘ as their party symbol.
  • Samajwadi Party and Jammu and Kashmir Panthers Party contest on ‘Cycle’ symbol in their respective states.
  • Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Shiv Sena have ‘Bow and Arrow’ as their election symbol in Jharkhand and Maharashtra respectively.