The day after party president Mulayam Singh was deposed by his son Akhilesh Yadav, the Samajwadi Party feud has reached the Election Commission of India office. Both the factions are laying claim to the ‘cycle’ symbol, with Mulayam going to the extent of saying it was his very ‘signature’. Now the question arises, how does Election Commission take the decision when a party splits? As per Indian Express, here is all you need to know about how EC exercises its power:
1) If there is a split in a political party outside the legislature and a dispute is over the election symbol, then according to Para 15 of the Symbols Order, 1968 : “When the Commission is satisfied… that there are rival sections or groups of a recognised political party each of whom claims to be that party the Commission may, after taking into account all the available facts and circumstances of the case and hearing (their) representatives… and other persons as desire to be heard, decide that one such rival section or group or none of such rival sections or groups is that recognised political party and the decision of the Commission shall be binding on all such rival sections or groups.” This however, is applied to disputes in recognised national and state parties. Whereas, for splits in registered but unrecognised parties, the Election Commission usually advises the warring factions to resolve their differences internally or to approach the court.
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2) In most of the cases decided by the EC so far, a clear majority of party delegates/office bearers, MPs and MLAs have supported one of the factions. So an alternative way to do a test of a majority to resolve a dispute over election symbols is that EC tests majority only among elected MPs and MLAs.
3) In the case when the group that doesn’t get the parent party’s symbol, what does EC do? Well, history speaks for it as when first Congress split happened in 1969, the EC recognised both the Congress (O) as well as the breakaway faction whose president was Jagjivan Ram. The Congress (O) had a substantial presence in some states and satisfied the criteria fixed for recognition of parties under Paras 6 and 7 of the Symbols Order. However, EC in 1997 did not recognise the new parties as either state or national parties. It felt that merely having MPs and MLAs is not enough, as the elected representatives had fought and won polls on tickets of their parent (undivided) parties. The EC introduced a new rule under which the splinter group of the party, other than the group that got the party symbol, had to register itself as a separate party, and could lay claim to national or state party status only on the basis of its performance in state or central elections after registration.
4) Now in the current situation, due to long and detailed EC hearings, it is unlikely to say that EC will be able to decide the dispute over the SP symbol before the UP elections. However, the panel in the intervening time may freeze the party symbol and provide ad hoc recognition to the two factions under names similar to the parent party. The factions will be asked to contest on different symbols.