Ginger, peas, bat and ball: EC unboxes array of symbols in candidate-dense TN

With 3,998 candidates contesting in 234 seats, the average number of candidates in Tamil Nadu is 17, higher than most populous Uttar Pradesh’s average of 12

The ECI office in New Delhi. By-polls will be held next month

If you see an amusing array of party symbols for Tamil Nadu polls, don’t be surprised. The state has, on an average, the largest number of candidates per seat. According to the Election Commission (EC), the average number of candidates for 234 seats is 17, which is larger than in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh (12) and in Bihar (15).

“It is only in Tamil Nadu that we see a large number of candidates every election. In the present election, there are 3,998 candidates contesting in 234 seats. Thus the average number of candidates in the state is 17 candidates,” said a senior EC official.

Such a large list of candidates pushes parties and Independents to rush for limited number of symbols. For instance, K Samiappan, contesting as an Independent from the Karur constituency, has been allotted the ‘Ginger’ symbol. Similarly, R Dhakshinamoorthy contesting from Polur constituency, also as an independent, has been given ‘Peas’ symbol. There are several others who have been allocated vegetables, fruits, other eatables, bats, balls, stumps, belts etc as symbols.

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Also read: Seeing double: Tamil Nadu voters face an old problem

The EC allots symbols from a basket of representative characters. If more than one candidate seek the same symbol, it is decided on the draw of lots.

In the recent Bihar election, the total number of candidates contesting the 243 seats was 3,773 and the average was a little over 15. In the 2019 Andhra Pradesh election, the total number of candidates was 2,118 and the average was 12. Even in Uttar Pradesh, which has the maximum number of assembly seats (403), there were 4,853 candidates in the 2017 assembly polls and the average number of candidates per seat was 12.

In the present Tamil Nadu assembly election, Karur has the maximum of 77 candidates of which 68 are independents. As the average number of candidates is high, the EC is forced to provide various symbols.

“It is only for national and state parties the symbols are final and for all other party candidates as well as independents, the returning officer of the constituency will provide the symbols from the basket of symbols. Periodically, we include or delete symbols from the basket,” said the EC official.

Candidates like Samiappan and Dhakshinamoorthy are finding it difficult to campaign with the symbol allotted to them. “I am not able to seek votes by stating that people must vote for ‘ginger’. Most of the voters are laughing the moment they see the vehicle with ginger symbol. I sought an auto symbol, but was allotted ginger,” said an independent candidate contesting from a Chennai constituency.

Other funny symbols allotted to candidates include green chilli, biscuit, noodles bowl, bread, skipping rope etc.

Though some of the symbols look funny, the ‘broom’ symbol of Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party came to occupy the centre-stage years ago. Poll panel officials say if the number of candidates keeps increasing, more such symbols will follow.

Also read: Competitive clientelism in Tamil Nadu since 1967: Finding a pattern

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