‘Flaming Torch’ Election Symbol: A Look Back At Samata Party And Nitish Kumar’s Ascension To Bihar CM

Now de-recognised Samata Party once launched Nitish Kumar as the Chief Minister of Bihar. Delhi HC today rejected their petition over claims on ‘flaming torch’ symbol that EC has recently given to Thackeray faction of Shiv Sena.

Once Upon A Time: Nitish With Lalu

The Delhi High Court today rejected a petition by the Samata Party challenging the Election Commission order allotting "flaming torch" election symbol to the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena.

Justice Sanjeev Narula noted that the petitioner party, which claimed that "flaming torch" belonged to it and has contested elections under it, was de-recognised in 2004 and has not shown the right in its favour.

"The petitioner has not demonstrated any right over the symbol. The court is not inclined to entertain this petition. Dismissed," the court said.

The petitioner submitted that the EC order dated October 10 to give "flaming torch" to the Thackeray-faction of Shiv Sena was a "reserved" symbol without first issuing a notification that it had been made a "free" symbol.

The petitioner's lawyer, Advocate Kamlesh Kumar Mishra, also informed the court that it contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election under the "flaming torch" symbol.

The Election Commission, represented by lawyer Sidhant Kumar, defended the allotment and said that there was no requirement under the law to issue any notification, as claimed by the petitioner, before passing the allotment order.

He also said that the petitioner party was de-recognised in 2004 and presently has no right over the "flaming torch" symbol.

What was Samata Party?

Founded in 1994 by George Fernandes and Nitish Kumar, Samata Party was a split from the earlier Janta Dal. As per the reports, it left the Janta Dal due to its focus on casteism. In terms of ideology it had socialist leanings.

It created its imprint mostly in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh region. In 1996 general elections, it made an alliance with BJP and won 8 seats of which six was from Bihar and one each from Uttar Pradesh and Odisha.

In 1998 elections again with the support of BJP, it got a shot in the arms with 12 seats – 10 from Bihar and 2 from Uttar Pradesh.

In Bihar assembly elections of 2000, Nitish Kumar, from Samata Party became the leader of the NDA and took oath as the Chief Minister for the first time. However, as he couldn’t manage to prove his majority in the house he had to resign.

Another CM from the party was Radhabinod Kojjam who became the Chief Minister of Manipur for a very brief time in 2001.

However, in 2003 George Fernandes declared the merger of the party with Janta Dal (United). Samata Party MP Brahmanand Mandal didn’t support the merger and knocked the doors of EC for recognition. Election Commission noted that the party was not dissolved and asked Mandal to continue with his faction under the name of Samata Dal.

The party however couldn’t survive through 2009 Lok Sabha elections. With extremely poor results, it became almost obsolete.

Does Nitish Recall Samata Party?

Interestingly, though people have forgot the Samta Party and its relevance, Bihar Chief Minister has not undermined his roots. In 2019, while addressing a rally after paying tributes to George fernandes, the founder of the Party, Nitish Kumar said that had there been no Samata Party, he would have never got the opportunity to serve the people of Bihar.

Recalling the days of struggle Kumar said, “We struggled for years under the guidance of George Sahib and later when n 1998, the NDA formed its Government under the leadership of Atal Bihar Vajpayee, Fernandes was made the defence minister. We won the Kargil war under George Saheb.”

While Samata Party has gone to the brink of the history, the Delhi HC’s rejection of their claims over the ‘flaming torch’ flames up the old memories.