Why did the EC ban both Shiv Sena factions from using the party symbol?

India’s Electoral Commission froze the Shiv Sena’s “bow and arrow” electoral symbol in an injunction passed Saturday night until competing claims between the two rival factions are resolved. Neither of Shiv Sena’s two factions — one led by Maharashtra’s Prime Minister Eknath Shinde and the other by his predecessor Uddhav Thackeray — may use the symbol in the forthcoming side poll for Andheri East’s gathering segment in Mumbai.

The EC went on to say that both groups will be known by names they can choose that can be linked to the parent party. They will also be assigned different election symbols, which they can choose from a list of free symbols communicated by the EBI.

The restraining order covers the purpose of the upcoming side poll and will continue until the dispute is resolved. The two Sena factions will face off in their first campaign in the November 3 side poll.

Why did the EC freeze the icon?

Citing previous precedent, the Electoral Commission said the symbol was frozen to “put both rival groups on an even keel and protect their rights and interests.”

“For the purposes of the ongoing by-elections,” the order said, “the two groups… shall be allocated as different symbols as they may choose from the list of free symbols…”.

The final decision on who gets the party symbol rests with the Electoral Commission and the procedure is mentioned in the Electoral Symbol (Reservation and Allocation) Orders 1968. EC cited Paragraph 15 of the Symbols Ordinance 1968 in the case of the Shiv Sena, acc Indian Express.

The order said: “If the Commission is satisfied that there are rival parts or groups of a recognized political party, each of which claims to be that party, the Commission, after considering all available facts and circumstances of the case and hearing (their) representatives … and other persons who wish to be heard shall decide that one or none of these rival sections or groups is that recognized political party, and the Commission’s decision shall be binding on all such rival sections or groups .”

How is the dispute resolved?

A clear majority of party delegates, MPs and MLAs supporting one of the factions have been cited in almost all disputes decided by the EC to date, the Indian Express said. In the case of the Shiv Sena, the majority of the party’s elected officials have sided with Shinde.

Whenever the EC could not test the strength of rival groups on the basis of support within the party organization, it resorted to testing the majority only among elected MPs and MLAs.

Has this happened before?

Scramble for election symbols is not new. When a party splits, there is often a dispute between the factions over the symbol. The EC made a similar decision in October 2021 when it froze the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) “bungalow” election symbol over a split. Earlier, in 2017, clashes erupted over the election symbol after the Samajwadi party split with the “cycle” symbol and the AIADMK, “two leaves”.

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