Symbolic Significance


To sweep the ballot, many political parties decorate bazaars with their banners and buntings marked with different party symbols. But what appears simple symbols carry deeper meanings into party insights and significance, argues Bilal Handoo   

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Other than National Conference’s ‘plough’, Peoples Democratic Party’s ‘pen and inkpot’, Congress’s ‘hand’ and Bhartiya Janta Party’s ‘lotus’- the 2014 assembly elections offered a wide range of other party symbols. While a candidate from Srinagar fought ballot with ‘bat’, another flew ‘kite’ in Pattan to woo voters. In an attempt to catch up with the pace of traditional parties, one candidate ran ‘auto rickshaw’ to contest polls.

At the outset of polls in Kashmir, an array of new independent candidates stepped in to poll field with their signature symbols. In Habba Kadal, NC ‘plough’ spearheaded by the incumbent legislator Shameema Firdous was pitted against BJP’s ‘lotus’, Lok Jan Shakti Party’s ‘Bungalow’ and others. Interestingly, one independent underdog in fray from the segment wooed voters with his ‘alarm clock’. Let the counting begin on December 23 and people will come to know: whether or not, his alarm was loud enough to draw voters in droves.

But the curious case of symbols doesn’t end with ‘alarm clock’ itself. In Khanyar area (where the buntings and banners decorated the area closer to police station), people found one interesting poster pasted on walls one fine morning with an interesting symbol: ‘teacup’. Besides, the candidate had left a stark message for the onlookers: “Teacup will remain at your service for 24/7 if voted to power!” While many shrugged off the message, but those who read, commented in a lighter vein: “What is this man up to? Does he want to trouble our stomach by serving tea 24/7?”

Reading underlying message out of party signs and symbols might be an instant public amusement, but their visual appeal does fascinate one. Like in North Kashmir’s Pattan town, one independent candidate sought votes for ‘cricket pitch’— his election symbol. Some in the town, however, expressed their reservations over the comparison between a gentleman’s game and ballot battle. But then, the game known for ducks and runs does throw surprising results. However, in the town where ‘pen and inkpot’ is directly pitted against ‘plough’, the game for ‘cricket pitch’ appears nothing more than a dead rubber.

Deep down in the north, the party symbols continued to fascinate. In Handwara town, the resurgent Peoples Conference (PC) led by the second generation Lone and the younger son of the slain Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone asked voters to press only his ‘table’ (his party symbol) for securing his maiden visit to state legislature. In his neighbourhood (Langate), Er Rasheed was ‘igniting’ the will of his voters to refill his ‘cylinder’—the symbol of his Awami Itehad Party. Rasheed couldn’t resist himself to peep into the past of Sajjad Lone led PC: “PC first had a ‘lion’ as their symbol. Once its ‘lion’ ran away, the party choose ‘gun’ as its symbol during nineties signifying its stand on Kashmir issue. As guns fell silent, they choose ‘table’ for talks. The changing symbols speak volumes about the party.”

Symbols which are allotted to a contesting candidates and parties as per the provisions of Election Commission of India carry more meaning than what meets an eye.

In South Kashmir’s Kulgam, ‘hammer and sickle’ of the Marxist leader MY Tarigami stands rigid and resolute since 1996. But when last checked, the rumour mill was on fire: “It might be sundown over comrade constituency this time around.”

But not every symbol lasts long. Post-elections, scores of symbols often get sublimated. The low-key symbols like ‘candle’ burnt out completely, the ‘torch’ faded away and the ‘clock’ stopped ticking. But one symbol which has maintained a long run is NC’s ‘plough’— which gave J&K the ‘land to tiller act’ during its heydays. Over the years the white plough set in red background reflected the ground reality of Kashmir. Many now say, the ‘party of plough’ has lost much of its acquired ground to ‘change’ sweeping from city to countryside.

Like ‘plough’, Congress’s ‘hand’ too looks shaky at the moment. There are no GM Sadiqs and Mir Qasims left in state Congress to hold its ‘hand’ after its ‘crisis manager’ (Ghulam Nabi Azad) tasted dust in summer polls.

In valley, the party which has adopted MUF’s ‘pen and inkpot’ seems gunning over the word of mouth ‘change’. The party which is allegedly ‘the brainchild of Indian agencies’ wants to write a new history of Kashmir with its ‘pen and inkpot’ after serving ‘healing touch’ on a platter during its earlier power stint.

And then, there is a saffron party riding high on Modi wave that wishes to grow ‘lotus’ in Kashmir. But BJP needs to fire its fact-finders, immediately! ‘Lotus’—though confined mainly  to Dal Lake does grow in Kashmir. However, in the valley of roses, lilies and tulips, ‘lotus’ bloom can’t be expected owing to climatic as well as ‘cinematic’ barriers.

But everything said and done, the fact of the matter remains—at the end of the day: it just takes a finger to set the symbol alive in the battle of ballot.


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