The Election Commission registers political parties for the purpose of elections and grants them recognition as national or state parties on the basis of their poll performance.
The other parties are simply declared as registered-unrecognised parties.
The recognition granted by the Commission to the parties determines their right to certain privileges like allocation of the party symbols, etc.
Every national party is allotted a symbol exclusively reserved for its use throughout the country.
Similarly, every state party is allotted a symbol exclusively reserved for its use in the state or states in which it is so recognised.
Thus the election commission allots the symbols even to national and state parties but keeps the symbols reserved for those parties.
A registered-unrecognised party, on the other hand, can select a symbol from a list of free symbols.
In other words, the Commission specifies certain symbols as ‘reserved symbols’ which are meant for the candidates set up by the recognised parties and others as ‘free symbols’ which are meant for other candidates.
In case a party gets divided into two or more factions, the factions can decide amongst themselves as to who will lay claim to the original party symbol.
If all the parties are interested, then the Election Commission allots the symbol to the faction having majority.
In the recent scenario of Samajwadi Party (symbol-bicycle), the poll body applied the test of majority supported as approved by the Supreme Court while deciding the case in favour of Akhilesh Yadav, whose group enjoys overwhelming majority support both among the legislative and organizational wing of the party.