India is home to the largest population of illiterate adults in the world; how do they recognise the parties they vote for at the ballot box?

A woman leaves after casting her vote at a polling station during the first phase of the general election in Majuli, a large river island in the Brahmaputra river, in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, India, April 11, 2019.
A woman leaves after casting her vote at a polling station during the first phase of the general election in Majuli, a large river island in the Brahmaputra river, in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, India, April 11, 2019. (Reuters)

As India went to the polls on Thursday, a significant number among the 900 million eligible voters cast their votes following the symbols – not the names – of their favourite candidates.

Over 2,000 parties have fielded several thousand candidates for the election that will run between now and May 19, in 543 constituencies across the nation of 1.3 billion people, with results not due until May 23.

The parties will canvass votes deploying symbols, pasting them on banners, flags, hoardings and buntings. The entire country will be flooded with colourful campaign posters with respective party symbols.

Here are the most prominent symbols that are identified with leading political parties of India.

Lotus

A supporter of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds the party symbol during an election campaign rally in Hyderabad, India, Monday, April 1, 2019.
A supporter of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds the party symbol during an election campaign rally in Hyderabad, India, Monday, April 1, 2019. (AP)

The lotus is the symbol of India's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is currently ruling the country. It comes from Hinduism and its tradition, symbolising the Hindu goddess of wisdom.

Hand

A supporter of India's main opposition Congress party wearing traditional headgear with the party's election symbol poses as he attends an election campaign rally in Mumbai, India, April 11, 2019.
A supporter of India's main opposition Congress party wearing traditional headgear with the party's election symbol poses as he attends an election campaign rally in Mumbai, India, April 11, 2019. (Reuters)

The Indian National Congress, India's leading opposition party, which has ruled the country for most of the post-Independence years, uses a hand as its symbol. 

It's the only party that uses the symbolism of a body part; the hand denotes unity and strength. 

Elephant

People attend an election campaign rally of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati on the occasion of the death anniversary of Kanshi Ram, founder of BSP, in Lucknow, India, October 9, 2016.
People attend an election campaign rally of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati on the occasion of the death anniversary of Kanshi Ram, founder of BSP, in Lucknow, India, October 9, 2016. (Reuters)

The Bahujan Samaj Party uses the elephant as its election symbol. It represents the strength of the minority Dalit community. The elephant is one of the few animal symbols in the country.

Bicycle

A Samajwadi Party worker campaigns on a bicycle, which is also the election symbol of the party in Lucknow, India, Friday, April 23, 2004.
A Samajwadi Party worker campaigns on a bicycle, which is also the election symbol of the party in Lucknow, India, Friday, April 23, 2004. (AP)

In India, the bicycle used to be a common mode of transport for several years after the country won independence from Britain in 1947. It comes as a political symbol to represent the masses. 

Ears of corn and a sickle

A cadre of the Communist Party of India carries a huge replica of the party symbol during an open rally prior to start of a party plenum, in Kolkata, India, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015.
A cadre of the Communist Party of India carries a huge replica of the party symbol during an open rally prior to start of a party plenum, in Kolkata, India, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015. (AP)

Like communist parties around the world, the symbol of the hammer, sickle and star is also replicated by the left-wing parties of India.

Broom

In this Feb. 10, 2015 file photo, supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), or Common Man’s Party, hold cut-outs of their leader Arvind Kejriwal and their party symbol, the broom, as they celebrate the party's victory in New Delhi, India.
In this Feb. 10, 2015 file photo, supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), or Common Man’s Party, hold cut-outs of their leader Arvind Kejriwal and their party symbol, the broom, as they celebrate the party's victory in New Delhi, India. (AP)

The symbol of the broom is used by one of India's newest parties, the Common Man's Party, which won Delhi's state elections at a time in 2015 when the ruling BJP seemed invincible. The Common Man's Party, locally known as Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), started off as an anti-corruption platform.

The leader of Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party holds a ceiling fan during a rally in India.
The leader of Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party holds a ceiling fan during a rally in India. (Twitter/@YSRCParty)

Common house objects like a kitchen sink and pillows are often are also used as election symbols by different parties to position themselves as representing the common man. For example, in southern India, the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party uses a ceiling fan as its symbol.

Source: TRT World