As I was watching some political news the other day, I got to wondering about party election symbols. What is the etymology of election symbols used by various political parties? A closer look shows that the symbols of some of the major parties reflect party ideology, or turning points in the country's or the party's history that have shaped the way the symbol looked. I've picked a few party symbols for this post...
1. DMK symbol - The Rising Sun: The DMK, with its roots in the anti brahmin / self respect movement in Tamil Nadu, broke the Congress strong hold over the state and heralded the 'dawn of a new day' - hence the Rising Sun symbol.
2. Indian National Congress symbol - Hand (right): The party of which Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and other leaders were members had the symbol of a charkha inside the tri colour. So when and how did it change into its present day 'Hand' symbol. According to some accounts, Indira Gandhi, visited a temple in Palakkad in Kerala, and was inspired by the deity. To me, it is the 'Abhaya hastham' which roughly translates into 'the hand that protects'. Now, I'm a Congress supporter, but this is a bit too paternalistic for my taste.
3. Bahujan Samaj Party - The Elephant: The Buddhist symbol of strength of mind. The BSP claims to represent the interests of the Dalits of the country. The Dalit cause is intricately linked with Dr. Ambedkar, the Father of our Constitution. Under his guidance, thousands of Dalits had embraced Buddhism as a way of throwing off the shackles of exploitation they bore due to the caste system. The Elephant thus has a the dual symbolism of linking with Dalit identity and mental strength through Buddhism.
4. Bharatiya Janata Party - The Lotus: OK - so I tried to do some research on this one. But did not have much success. So here is my personal take on it. As we all know, the lotus blooms in muddy waters. It is also an important symbol of the Hindu religion. Several gods and goddesses hold the lotus flower in their hands. The BJP is a Hindu right wing party and its logo unequivocally establishes it as such. Though the party keeps harping about a Hindu nationalism as a complete Indian nationalism, these symbols have a vedic / sanskritised etymology, thereby indicating an alignment with upper caste, upper class politics and an alienation from the Bahujan or Dalits - my take purely based on symbolism and not political strategy.
5. Shiv Sena - The bow & arrow: I'm going to go beyond just the party symbol and look at other symbols of this party. It is very interesting, since the symbols are violent in nature and mirror the ethos of this party. The bow and arrow - symbol of war. The Marathi manoos going to war with the migrants entering Mumbai. The party symbol - a snarling tiger. The violence and destruction they have been inflicting on the poor Mumbaikars over the issue of 'outsiders' in recent times are explanation enough of this mascot. Lastly, the name of the party itself. Sena or Army. Again the reflection of violence and menace.
These were a few which interested me. So I did some research on the net, added my own interpretation as garnish for your enjoyment. There were a few others which I found bizarre and funny:
- Rashtriya Lok Dal - A hand pump
- Muslim League Kerala State Committee - A ladder (which doesn't seem to be going anywhere)
- Indian National Lok Da - Spectacles (!!)
- Mizoram People's Conference - A light bulb.
I realise these symbols might have been chosen because the better ones were taken. But a party election symbol should be more carefully considered and reflect the manifesto of the party - be it paternalistic like the Congress, right wing like the BJP or far right wing like the Shiv Sena. What do you think?
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