What’s in a symbol? The mark of power | india | Hindustan Times
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What’s in a symbol? The mark of power

Voters would know the hand symbol is associated with the Congress but few would know how it came to be so. Satyen Mohapatra tells more.

india Updated: Mar 25, 2009 00:49 IST
Satyen Mohapatra
Satyen Mohapatra
Hindustan Times

Voters would know the hand symbol is associated with the Congress but few would know how it came to be so.

Although many Congress leaders said they were unaware of the origin of their party’s symbol, the official of a little-known temple in Kerala’s Palakkad district threw some light on the matter.

V. Muralidhara, executive officer of the Emur Bhagavathy or Hemambika Temple, told HT, “the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was inspired by the deity at the shrine and adopted it as her party’s symbol in 1978”.

The deity is a hand.

Local legend has it that goddess Hemambika manifested herself in a pond in the area and the priest rushed in to catch her hands. The goddess stopped appearing in her full form.

“The priest got only the Devi’s emerging hands. These are the hands which are enshrined in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple,” Muralidahara said.

So, the Congress shed the cow-and-calf symbol it had since 1971 after its first symbol — a pair of yoked bullocks — was consigned to history.

As far as BJP is concerned it has an entire book, Lotus, the Eternal Cultural Symbol, written by senior leader V.K. Malhotra on its symbol.

“We had the lamp as our symbol during the Jan Sangh days. It was selected way back in 1952. When the party merged with the Janata Party, it had the symbol of a farmer with a plough on his shoulder. When the BJP was launched as a separate political entity in 1980, a committee was formed to select its name, symbol and flag. We chose the lotus as it was secular and depicted devotion, spirituality, beauty,” Malhotra told HT.

Unlike the Congress and the BJP, the BSP adopted an animal — a blue elephant — as its symbol. Said political scientist Sudha Pai of Jawaharlal Nehru University: “BSP founder Kanshi Ram chose the blue elephant because an elephant moves slowly but has the capacity to destroy everything in its way. His party was challenging the power of the upper castes in India’s unequal society and wanted to bring a uniform structure. The blue colour was chosen because the sky is blue and universal.”The RJD’s Ram Deo Bhandary said: “Our party symbol — the hurricane lamp — was chosen as it not only dispels darkness but is easily recognisable in rural and urban areas.”

Samajwadi Party Rajya Sabha MP Banwari Lal Kanchhal said: “Our party has since its inception been using the symbol of the cycle as it represents the vehicle used by 90 per cent of the people belonging to the poor and lower middle class in the rural and urban areas.”