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Poll panel chooses red panda as mascot symbol

- Endangered animal to be used on posters in Darjeeling to create awareness about election process

Darjeeling, April 3: Not just political parties, in Darjeeling the Election Commission also has a symbol — the endangered red panda of the Himalayas.

The Election Commission has chosen the animal as its mascot to be used for creating awareness of free and fair election in the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat.

The initiative is the first of its kind and has been done only in Darjeeling. The campaign is aimed at encouraging people to participate in the election process.

Posters of the mascot informing the voters about the toll-free numbers and with messages like “Your Vote, Your Right” have been released to create awareness on the election process.

An animated advertisement compiled in CDs was also released along with coffee mugs and eco-friendly carry bags bearing the mascot’s picture.

“Our aim is to ensure free and fair elections and the ECI has directed us to come up with innovative ideas to spread the message. The ECI has approved our idea to have a mascot for the Darjeeling constituency,” said Puneet Yadav, the district election officer, who is also the district magistrate of Darjeeling.

The mascot was unveiled by R.D. Meena, the divisional commissioner of Jalpaiguri division, along with the general observers for the election, Alkesh Kumar Sharma and Amlan Barua, in Darjeeling today.

The mascot has been dressed up in the traditional attire of various communities from both the hills and the plains.

“During elections things get heated and tense, but let us not forget the rich heritage and the natural beauty of the place. This is depicted by the mascot,” said Yadav.

The red panda has not been given a name and sources said they are mulling a few choices.

“We are using an animated form of red panda,” said Yadav.

The idea of an animated red panda was put forward by Radhika Aiyyar, who is the assistant returning officer and also the subdivisional officer of Kalimpong. “I am thankful to my senior officers who helped me to get the mascot approved. Having heard of mascots in the Olympics and the Commonweath Games, the concept struck me. It must also be remembered that the red panda which is a rare animal, is found only in the Himalayas and is one of the main attractions of the Darjeeling hills,” said Aiyyar.

“This (mascot) is a convergence of natural ecology and mass participation of voters, which is the idea behind choosing the red panda as the mascot,” Aiyyar added.