The results of this election again raised the question of the meaning of the symbol.

As the elections approach, the seat-sharing talks in the DMK camp have been delayed on one point: what should be the symbol over which the smaller allies must be arguing. The DMK insisted that small parties challenge its “rising sun” symbol because it was popular. While the MDMK, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi and a few other parties gave in, the VCK and IUML were firm in their challenge over their own symbols.

In the AIADMK camp, the Tamil Congress of Maanila and a few small parties have agreed to fight over the symbol of the “two leaves”.

The main Dravidian parties’ insistence on their allies arguing over “borrowed” symbols was based on the assumption that the prospects would be brighter if candidates sought to vote on a “familiar” symbol. Also, once a candidate has been elected on a party symbol, he / she would be bound by that party’s whip when voting in the assembly.

However, the results proved that familiarity with a symbol may not matter forever. The TMC did not even manage to win one of the six seats where it had contested over the symbol of AIADMK. On the contrary, the VCK, which quarreled over the “pot” symbol awarded to them midway through the campaign, managed to establish leads in four constituencies.

Interestingly, the MDMK, which fought over the six-seat DMK symbol, established leaders in four constituencies. Four other candidates from small parties who fought over the symbol of the “rising sun” are ahead of their closest rivals.

Also in the AIADMK camp, a candidate in a scant dress contesting the “two leaves” symbol is about to win.

Analysts say ‘borrowed’ symbol protest issue has been in vogue for many decades, but it rose to prominence in 2016 when AIADMK, under Jayalalithaa, allocated seats only to allies who agreed to argue over his symbol. Thus, for the first time, the symbol of the “two leaves” was seen in the 234 constituencies during this election.

After a few candidates from other parties won Lok Sabha’s last election on the DMK symbol, a lawyer asked the Madras High Court to challenge the practice.

Party officials, however, say several factors are at play in deciding the likelihood of winning a candidate. The candidate’s reputation in the constituency, his relationship with allied workers in the constituency, his past work in this area are among the factors that may influence the result. And no known symbol can change its odds.

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