The Election Commission of India has afforded an opportunity to BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay of being heard on his application seeking the direction of withdrawal and cancellation of the election symbol ‘Palm of Hand’, allotted to the Indian National Congress, with immediate effect.

In his letter to the ECI dated January 29, Upadhyay has contended that the aforesaid symbol is being abused by the party candidates and their associates in patent violation of the spirit of free and fair elections under Article 324 of the Constitution of India read with General Conduct (4) of the Model Code of Conduct and Section 130 of the Representation of People Act, 1951.

It has been averred that on a reference to the Election Symbols Order, 1968 and the Handbook of Symbols available at the official website of the Election Commission of India, it becomes apparent that of six National Parties, over 75 state parties and 75 ‘free symbols’ of the ECI, the ‘palm of hand’ symbol allotted to the Congress is the only inseverable body part.

It has been claimed: “That even without resorting to any kind of election campaigning by a candidate of the Indian National Congress, it goes on unabated. Every time a candidate of the Congress party or his supporter passes through voters in public gathering, they use ‘Palm of Hand’ to solicit the vote for Congress candidate, not only prior to the polling, even on the polling day and also within the 100 meters periphery… The agents appointed by Congress candidates, brazenly solicit vote for Congress candidates by showing ‘Palm of Hand’ to voters on polling day within the polling premises in violation of the Model Code of Conduct and Section 130 of the Representation of the People Act 1951…Contesting candidates, supporters and election agents of the Congress misuse the election symbol ‘Palm of Hand’ even on the polling day and also inside the polling booths by gesturing and showing the preference for the voting by a simple wave of the hand, or even by just pointing to it…”

In his application, Upadhyay has lamented, “Complaints made to Presiding Officers at Polling Stations regarding this kind of misuse of election symbol ‘Palm of Hand’ have never yielded any result. It is clear that this misuse is only as a result of the allotment of a unique symbol which is inextricably linked to the human body, and in fact, the very part of which is essential for marking the vote with indelible ink (election ink)”.

He has relied on a reply, on an oral complaint in this behalf, of the Presiding Officer of polling booths that the latter is helpless as the election symbol ‘Palm of Hand’ is a part of the human body and cannot be detached therefrom and hence, if the contesting candidate or their agents make any gesture with the ‘Palm of Hand’, it will not be possible to take any action.

He has also cited the instance of the 2007 elections of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) when the State Election Commission had issued a notice to Congress leader Ram Babu Sharma for committing similar violations and subsequently closed the matter with a simple warning.

Upadhyay is scheduled to appear for a personal hearing before the Deputy Election Commissioner on Wednesday.