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'Congress symbol inspired from Kerala temple'

delhi Updated: Mar 13, 2009 23:56 IST
Satyen Mohapatra
Satyen Mohapatra
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Does the genesis of Congress Party's palm of the hand symbol lie in a remote temple in Kerala?

Though party leaders in Congress headquarters in New Delhi are unable to tell how exactly the party got its symbol, people in Emur Bhagavathy (Hemambika) temple in Palakkad district believe that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was inspired by the deity of the temple.

This unique temple is believed to be the only one in the country where the idols are only Devi's 'hands' and the temple is also known as "Kaipathi" (hand) temple.

Talking to the Hindustan Times, Executive Officer of the Hemambika Temple V Muralidhara from Palakkad said, according to legend it is believed that while manifesting herself in a pond Devi Hemambika " bestower of prosperity, boons and auspiciousness raised her divine hands in the middle of the blessed pond Kallekulam."

"In a paroxysm of devotion, her impatient priest jumped into the pond and caught hold of those hands before she fully manifested. The Devi stopped appearing. The priest got only the Devi's emerging hands. These are the hands which are enshrined in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple," he added.

Muralidhara said: "Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was one of the prominent visitors to the temple and had seen the deity. She took hand as the symbol for the Congress Party in the next general election."

As far as BJP is concerned it has a full book "Lotus, the Eternal Cultural Symbol" written by senior party leader VK Malhotra on its symbol of Lotus which found reflected in the history, culture and literature of India and also other parts of the world.

Talking to HT, Malhotra said: " We had lamp as the symbol during Jan Sangh days selected way back in 1952, when the party merged in Janata Party it had the symbol of farmer with plough on shoulder. When BJP was launched as a separate political entity in 1980, a committee was formed to select its name, symbol and flag.

"We had some symbols to choose from like telephone, train, rising sun and we chose lotus which was much better as it was a secular and depicted devotion, spirituality, beauty."

Lotus was the perfect symbol, he said adding, "Reminding us of humility and purity in the surrounding slush and mud of politics."

The tradition of having symbols alongside the name of the candidate started way back from the first election primarily because of the low literacy rate as large number of electorate were not able to read the candidate's name.

The tradition of having symbols alongside the name of the candidate started way back from the first election primarily because of the low literacy rate as large number of electorate were not able to read the candidate's name.

Interestingly during the first election each candidate used to have a separate ballot box.

There is no code for what kind of symbols a party can have as long as it is not "objectionable". It is up to the election commission to consider the proposal for a symbol put forward by the party and to accept or reject it.

There are free symbols for all the unrecognised parties and independent candidates with the election commission

The election commission also maintains a list of free symbols which unrecognised parties or independent candidates have to choose from.

The number of free symbols has been dwindling over the years from about 100 to about 60 today.

The same symbol can be used by different independent candidates and unrecognised parties in different constituencies.

According to a senior officer in the election commission, "In 1990s in one by-election there were one thousand candidates in one constituency of Tamil Nadu. At that time, we really had to go around looking for symbols and even had give symbols like one bottle, two bottles,three bottles, to candidates. The ballot at that election had to be printed like a book."

Some of the free symbols have become old fashioned like a primitive radio, and the EC has yet to select new symbols like computer or mobile phone.

Earlier, animals had been included as part of the list of free symbols but then people started using those animals for publicity , like if the candidate had pigeon symbol candidates would carry pigeons with them. As protests came from animal right activists except lion and elephant which have remained as reserved symbols no other animal symbol is being used.

Today, standing lion is the symbol of Forward Block and blue elephant is the symbol of BSP.

According to Political Science Professor at JNU, Sudha Pai: "BSP founder Kanshi Ram had chosen the blue elephant as the party symbol because elephant moves slowly but has the capacity to destroy everything in its way. His party was challenging the power of the upper caste in India's unequal society and wanted to bring uniform structure. The blue colour was chosen because sky is blue and universal."

Forward Block MP Barun Mukherjee said, "Our party had to choose from available symbols with election commission in the 1950's and we chose the standing lion which is not only king of the animals but represents strength. Our lion represents the strength of the working class."

"We wanted to have the leaping tiger which symbol is on our flag and was chosen by our founder Subhash Chandra Bose representing the fight against the British imperialism ,but the Election Commission had then rejected our application,"he added.

RJD's Ram Deo Bhandary says, "Our party symbol hurricane lamp was chosen as it not only dispels darkness but is easily recognisable all over in both rural and urban areas.We had the symbol at regional level and are we going to use the symbol even at the national level."