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Academic Research or Hit Job?

Ashoka University paper deviously questions Indian electoral outcomes in the guise of research with very little basis or evidence

Vinod Kumar Shukla

It took over four years for Ashoka University to come up with 50-page research paper ‘Democratic Backsliding in the World’s Largest Democracy’ by Sabyasachi Das which terms 2019 Lok Sabha polls outcome as electoral fraud.


The paper lacks objectivity when it outlines that polls were manipulated in closely contested constituencies. Manipulations at the time of voter registration, voting and counting are other findings that this paper boasts of.

Insinuations that Muslims were deliberately de-franchised by removing their names from voter lists too figured in the report as one of the tools of manipulation. The research paper suggests that manipulation has its impact on nine to 18 seats with victory margin of three to seven per cent.

Even if one were to believe that the data and findings were on dot, the outcomes would not have been tilted or would have remained unaffected as BJP had won 303 seats out of 543. BJP would have still formed the government even if it had lost all 18 seats as the paper claims.

Another twisted argument claims that BJP won a disproportionately higher number of closely contested seats where it was in power. State cadre officers’ credentials have also been questioned in the report, They have been squarely held responsible for votes manipulation by charging that observers from state services of BJP-ruled states were in large numbers. Now, the interpretation that all state level officers resorted to manipulating outcomes to ensure a BJP victory was neither backed with evidence nor data or facts. This conclusion is more imaginary rather than being a fact. It’s libellous too.

Let’s do a fact check on closely contested 98 seats with less than five per cent victory margins of which BJP had won 43 seats (roughly 44 per cent). Out of these seats, the BJP won 22 in states that it was in power. The paper in guise of research ignores the fact that BJP won equal number of seats from opposition parties ruled states. Ashoka University paper does not have any plausible explanation to insidious job in the name academic research.  

Contrary to what Ashoka University academic claims, 2019 elections were not at all closely contested as BJP led by its mascot Narendra Modi had secured over 50 per cent votes share in 224 seats. This constitutes about 75 per cent seats that BJP garnered.

Why does Ashoka University paper set aside a glaring fact that BJP bagged more seats in Uttar Pradesh in 2014 Lok Sabha polls at 71 when SP was in power. This is against 62 seats won in 2019 when it was in the saddle. In 2019, there was a Congress government in Madhya Pradesh but BJP had won 28 seats out of 29; it had won all seats in Rajasthan while nine out of 11 in Chhattisgarh. Karnataka too was ruled by the opposition when BJP and its ally had won 26 seats out of 28 seats. West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana were such states where BJP did well despite opposition governments.

The Quint was quoted in the Ashoka University paper to point out variance in votes polled through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and votes counted. The paper claims that there was variance in 373 seats but was able to provide examples of 11 seats where it purportedly found discrepancies. Of these, five were won by the BJP and six by others.

Actually the author needs basic lessons in politics and election dynamics as closely contested seats won by any political party by no means suggest manipulation. They have won with organisational strength, social engineering, compatibility of alliance partners, campaign strategy, strength of economic and development agenda, star campaigners and benefits provided to people by the government.

In closely contested elections, taking voters to booths on polling day matters the most and BJP is good at it. Election management in BJP is done with such precision that it goes for person to person, door to door contact with volunteers or party people marked to each voter or the family. So, BJP predictions on victory or outcomes made periodically is based on its extensive campaign machinery inputs and not conjecture, predictions made by media outlets or hear say.

Asoka University paper also talks about deletion of Muslim votes from electoral lists thereby questioning the very basic electoral credential in India that has been hailed as ‘biggest festival of democracy’ by international agencies as well. The report commits another big blunder by completely ignoring notices given to parties like Samajwadi Party of Akhilesh Yadav to provide proof in support of his allegations on deletion of muslims names from the electoral lists.

Actually, the case of Muslim vote banks is the other way round as Bangladeshi and Rohingya infiltrators are illegally getting inducted into voter lists not only changing demographies but are a threat to democracy. So, Ashoka University report is not academic work but a hit job done on behalf of certain political parties.  Report findings or observations in such cases are predetermined and arguments, data points or methodology is designed to such false narratives. Such reports are later amplified by leaders like Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee to drive their own nefarious agenda.

They have always been questioning Election Commission of India, Electronic Voting Machines and voter verified paper audit trail (VV PAT) whenever they lost elections or people rejected them. If non-BJP parties were to be elected, then these very parties hail such ‘electoral outcomes’ as ‘victory to democracy’.

 As if in second thought, Ashoka University meanwhile distanced itself from findings in the paper commission by the institution. But question remains, who assigned the project? Who funded it? The university must come clean as it puts a big question mark on credibility of constitutional bodies of the country like Election Commission of India.

Ashoka University in any case is known in academic circles for debunking alternative socio-economic or political thought. It is widely known to have encouraged Hinduphobic projects, eulogise Hinduphob faculty, nurture Hinduphobic ideology and commission anti-Hindu projects. Is the present research suspected to be sponsored by some political parties which are Hinduphobic in nature, content, spirit and attitude towards Hindu way of life?

Faculty members like Mitul Baruah, Srinath Raghwan, Neelanjan Sircar, Durba Chattarji, Shahid Jameel, Ashwini Deshpande, Aparna Veidik and Maya Mirchandani are woke and Hinduphobs. A book by one of the faculty members depicts Adi Shankara as a devious Brahmin with twisted intellect.

Ashoka University, in the guise of research not only target people revered by Hindus but sacrament institutions like marriage when Harvard-educated trans-gender person Bittu Kaveri Rajaraman, a professor of Biology, calls gender a social construct and advocates fluidity of gender. She says, “We should not biologize gender.”

Ashoka University has turned out to be a distribution channel through which the likes of Harvard, Yele and many peddle anti-Hindu propaganda. Ashoka’s Centre for Studies in Gender and Sexuality department has been in news for propagating western thoughts on sexuality including recommending education about LGBTQ to tender minds like 4-9 years to destroy Indian society and culture. Hinduphobs like Vikramaditya Sahay are invited to the university to brainwash students.

He calls gender and marriage violent, repressive and recommend dismantling societal institutions that have stood test of times. Samreen Mustaq of Ashoka wrote about India’s tyranny in Kashmir and regularly promotes a secessionist agenda against India. In effect, Ashoka has evolved as a Breaking India incubator when Bhanu Pratap Mehta and known Hinduphobic, Modi hater and former vice chancellor says, “being anti-national is not a crime.”

As part of anti-India agenda, such activities are not only normal but encouraged and rewarded with grants. Now when the 2024 elections are closer, a bogey on electoral fraud is tossed up for a daunting ecosystem which works against democratic credentials of India to lap it up. These activists in the guise of academia have developed expertise on maligning image of India and do not tolerate transformation of the country which is duly recognized internationally.

John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council in the White House recently said, “India is a vibrant democracy. Anybody that, you know, happens to go to New Delhi can see that for themselves.” Back home, attempts are made to negate democratic credential of India through fraudulent exercise in the name of research. Should not Ashoka be questioned on the authenticity of deep fake research being peddled? Should Ashoka not come up with explanation on source of funding such research instead of washing off its hands?

EVMs were being seen as electoral manipulation tools by Ashoka at a time when these very machines were deployed in ten countries including US during elections. Anther ten countries approached India and some of them have placed orders for Indian EVMs to get elections done flawlessly.

Political parties that blamed EVMs for purported manipulations failed to show up when ECI threw a challenge to hack these machines on camera.

The entire Ashoka paper is full of woke stereotypes with zero understanding of Indian democracy and shows bias against people, ideas and thinking that does not fit into their universal playbook.

(Author is a senior journalist and commentator based in New Delhi)

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