Squatting plate as election symbol finds no takers
By bappaditya paul
Emulating Shakespeare’s ‘what’s in a name…’ one may feel prone to rubbish this saying ‘what’s in a symbol’! But when it comes to panchayat polls, every politician worth his salt knows that an election symbol is as crucial a factor as the contestant’s credentials in increasing or minimising the chances of a win.And this is the reason why the West Bengal State Election Commission (SEC) has hardly found any takers for an election symbol that stinks, virtually, if not literally! The symbol in question is one depicting a sanitary toilet, a squatting plate, to be precise, meant for elections to gram panchayat seats.
The West Bengal Panchayat Election Rules, 2006, provide for free (unreserved) election symbols meant for Independent candidates or for those from unrecognised political parties. For gram panchayat polls, there are 31 free symbols, for panchayat samiti 26 and for zilla parishad there are 17 such symbols that the contestants can choose from.
The toilet squatting plate is one of the 31 symbols, listed at serial number 28, that are open to candidates slogging it out for gram panchayat seats, but both SEC officials and returning officers in the districts said that they have hardly found any contestants opting for that particular symbol. The allotment of symbols for the five-phase rural polls in Bengal is already complete.
“There are a number of Independent candidates in my jurisdiction; but none has opted for the sanitary toilet symbol,” said Mr Subrata Chakrabarty, the panchayat returning officer and BDO at Farakka block in Murshidabad. All returning officers are required to furnish to the SEC in Form-7 the details of candidates and symbols allotted to them; SEC sources said that they too have not come across any candidate who has chosen the toilet symbol.When asked about the matter, SEC secretary Tapas Ray conceded that it is unlikely for any serious contestant to opt for the unpleasant symbol but said none had complained about this until now. “The election rules are framed by the state panchayat department and so is the list of free symbols. In 2006 when the existing rules were formulated, they had included the sanitary toilet symbol, probably thinking that it would help in raising awareness for the Centre-funded Total Sanitation Campaign,” Mr Ray said.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 5 July 2013.)