How are Symbols allotted to Political Parties in India?

Current Affairs, Polity

A recent Supreme Court decision declining a plea by a political party in Telangana, questioning the allocation of election symbols, has thrown the spotlight on the intriguing world of political symbols in India.

Symbols Allocation Authority: ECI

  • Symbol allocation to political parties is the responsibility of the ECI, which follows The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
  • During elections, this order seeks to control symbol specification, reservation, choice, and allotment.

Types of Election Symbols

  • Reserved and Free Symbols: Symbols can be designated as “free” symbols, which are selected by candidates from unrecognized registered parties, or as reserved symbols, which are only assigned to recognized political parties. Parties that have not satisfied the requirements for state party recognition are considered unrecognized.
  • Unique Symbols: As a mark of their established status, recognized national and state parties are awarded unique symbols.

Symbol Selection by Parties

  • Preference Lists: From the free symbol pool, ten favorite symbols are provided by unrecognized parties. •
  • Proposal of New Symbols: Parties may suggest up to three new symbols for consideration, as long as they don’t portray animals or birds, have religious or community overtones, or mimic reserved or free symbols. •
  • Common Symbol Assignment: If the ECI determines that a proposed symbol is appropriate, it may designate it as the party’s common symbol.

Historical Origins of Symbols

  • Drawing Process: MS Sethi, who left the ECI in 1992, drew the symbols at first. The idea behind these symbols was to find objects that the average person could relate to through brainstorming sessions.
  • The genesis of many well-known symbols, like the bicycle, elephant, and broom, can be traced back to these meetings.
  • Nontraditional Submissions: A variety of less well-known symbols, such as a necktie, a pair of glasses, and a nail clipper, were also proposed, demonstrating the range of concepts.
  • Modern Additions: As time has gone on, new symbols that represent modern times have been added to the list, such as a bowl of noodles and a smartphone charger.

Political Parties’ Say

  • Submission of Preferences: Unregistered parties provide their choices for symbols from the available list.
  • New Symbol Proposal: Parties may submit up to three distinct new symbols, each with a distinct design and illustration.
  • Requirements for Approval: Suggested symbols cannot represent animals or birds, have religious or societal overtones, or mimic currently used restricted or free emblems.

Symbol Allocation in Split Parties

  • ECI Decision: The ECI decides which symbol to assign when officially recognized political parties split. For instance, splits led to the evolution of the Congress party’s emblem from a pair of bulls to the current hand sign.
  • A recent example is when the ECI gave distinct insignia to rival Shiv Sena factions, letting one keep the bow and arrow symbol while giving the other side a flaming torch.


  • The ECI’s guidelines control the careful process of allocating election emblems in India.
  • In political campaigns, these symbols are extremely important since they symbolize the identities and philosophies of the various parties.
  • Gaining knowledge of the complex history of symbol allocation might help one better understand India’s ever-changing political environment.

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