Samajwadi Party’s Symbol War: EC Can Freeze Cycle of Discontent

As the internal rift within SP widens, the EC may freeze the party’s cycle symbol, writes SY Quraishi.

4 min read
Hindi Female

The sudden dramatic developments in the Samajwadi Party in UP have thrown out of gear all calculations of poll pundits for the upcoming state assembly elections. The latest in the drama was the mutual expulsion by the two segments.

I have been flooded with media queries about the implications on the forthcoming elections and the role of the election commission. The commission is not concerned with mutual recrimination being played out in the media and the claims and counterclaims. EC does not take suo motu action in such case and comes into the picture only when one party approaches it with its claim.

The commission then starts quasi-judicial proceedings, under Section 15 of The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 by giving a notice to the other faction to give their version. Both parties obviously claim that they are the real party. EC calls on both factions to produce evidence in support of their claim along with affidavits.

Also Read: Did Akhilesh Mastermind Expulsion Drama to Pressurise Mulayam?

As the internal rift within SP widens, the EC may freeze the party’s cycle symbol, writes SY Quraishi.
(Infographic: Lijumol Jospeh/ The Quint)

EC Will Examine Claims and Counterclaims

It will be useful to reproduce Section 15 of The Symbols Order, which runs as follows:

When the commission is satisfied on information in its position, that there are rival sections or groups of a recognised political party, each of whom claims to be that party, the Commission may, after taking into account all the available facts and circumstances of the case, and hearing such representatives of the sections or groups and other persons as desire to be heard, decide that one such rival section or group, or none of such arrival sections of groups, is that recognised party, and the decision of the Commission shall be binding and on all such rivals sections or groups.
Section 15 of The Election Symbols Order, 1968

The EC will examine the claims and counterclaims to determine which faction has the majority. This will include MLAs, MLCs and the office bearers of the party. Our experience has been that both factions often question each other’s list as being an inflated one with many bogus signatures. Determining the genuineness of signatures becomes a ticklish job. Both parties will have to be given a hearing. The whole process can take 3–5 months.

Also Read: SP Feud: Akhilesh’s Win Over Mulayam Similar to Indira’s Rebellion


Ad Hoc Symbol for Warring Factions

The question is what happens in the upcoming election which is due within a few months. An interim arrangement has to be found. Since both the parties will stake claim over the party name and symbol, the symbol may be frozen pending the judgement. In the meantime the two factions will be given an ad hoc name like SP (X) and SP (Y) and an interim symbol will be allotted to each.

This is not a new phenomenon. There have been several cases in the past when a party split into two factions with both seeking recognition as the real party. The best remembered case is that of the Indian National Congress which split in 1969 leading to the formation of two parties – Congress (O) and Congress (I). In fact, the Congress split a second time in 1978 when Congress (Indira) and Congress (Tiwari) were created.

In the 1980s, in Tamil Nadu, AIADMK split into two factions, one led by MGR's wife Janaki and the other by J Jayalalithaa. Later, the Janata Dal had gone through similar process becoming JD (U) and JD (S). Not long ago, before 2012 elections, we had a similar situation in Uttarakhand where Uttarakhand Kranti Dal split. The EC went through the above mentioned process.


Test of Majority

The EC looks at two factors – the Constitution of the party and the strength of each group, applying the test of majority. Many of these cases have finally landed in the Supreme Court. The most important judgement was in the case of INC where the Supreme Court upheld the order of the ECI, applying the test of majority.

In the instant case of UP, while the constitution of the Samajwadi Party and the actions taken under its purview will certainly be a crucial criteria, the test of majority, which has already been upheld by the Supreme Court, will perhaps have an overriding consideration.

Since all these are quasi judicial proceedings, it will certainly take 4–5 months. Till then, an ad hoc arrangement for giving distinguishable names to the two factions and an ad hoc symbol to each seems to be the likely scenario.


(The writer is a former Chief Election Commissioner and the author of ‘An Undocumented Wonder – the Making of the Great Indian Election’. He can be reached @DrSYQuraishi. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

Also Read: Mulayam More Likely to Ride the SP Cycle as Law Tips in His Favour

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