With the Assembly election just a few months away, some registered but unrecognised political parties have been allotted symbols by the Election Commission of India (ECI). Others, including actor Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) and the proposed party of fellow film star Rajinikanth, will have to wait for the allotment of a symbol in Tamil Nadu.
No political party can claim the allotment of a symbol even at the time of registration with the ECI, according to the legal provision and officials — serving and retired — dealing with election issues.
Once registration is done, a new party can write to the panel, seeking the allotment of a specific symbol. Under para 10B of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, which was amended through a June 2015 notification, a registered, unrecognised political party, during the Assembly election or the Lok Sabha poll, may be allotted a common symbol if it fields candidates in at least 5% of Assembly constituencies or in two Lok Sabha constituencies.
For example, in Tamil Nadu, a party seeking a common symbol during the 2021 Assembly poll should field nominees in a minimum of 12 constituencies. There are several other conditions too.
It is under this clause that parties like the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), the MNM, the Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) and six other outfits have been allotted common symbols for the Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. The MNM has been given its earlier symbol of ‘battery torch’ only for the Puducherry Assembly election, whereas the AMMK and the NTK have been given the common symbols of ‘pressure cooker’ and ‘ganna kisan’ for the elections in both Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
Two former Chief Election Commissioners, speaking on the condition of anonymity, explained that recognition does provide the parties certain privileges, but every registered party has the right to seek the allotment of a common symbol, subject to fulfilling the conditions laid down by the panel.