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Who is Sabyasachi Das whose paper suggests BJP manipulated 2019 elections?

;BJP manipulated 2019 elections In a recent research paper, serious allegations of electoral manipulation raised concerning India's 2019

By Ground Report
New Update
Ashoka University professor Sabyasachi Das resigns

Sabyasachi Das Paper: In a recent research paper, serious allegations of electoral manipulation have been raised concerning India's 2019 general election, one of the world's largest democratic exercises. The paper examines objective evidence of potential democratic backsliding in India, with a focus on the conduct of the Election Commission of India (ECI), the body responsible for overseeing elections.

The cornerstone of any democracy is the conduct of free and fair elections, ensuring that the voice of the people is heard through their ballots. However, global trust in electoral institutions has been declining, coinciding with what experts call "democratic backsliding," a trend where certain democracies display autocratic tendencies.

Who is Sabyasachi Das?

Sabyasachi Das is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ashoka University, holding a Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University. Before joining Ashoka, he served as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Indian Statistical Institute in Delhi. His areas of expertise lie in political economy, public economics, and applied microeconomics. His research primarily revolves around examining group inequalities arising from democratic processes.

Hailing from a tranquil town on the border of Bhutan in northern West Bengal, Professor Das reminisces about his carefree childhood, where life revolved around school and cricket. Shifting to Kolkata before college, he discovered his love for cinema, fostering an enduring interest in films of all genres and languages. Though he dabbled in filmmaking, he never pursued it professionally, considering his passion to be a gradual and evolving journey.

In his studies, Sabyasachi Das has focused on gender and caste issues in village elections and meetings in India, as well as the governance consequences of political alignments between state and local governments, particularly regarding the appointments of bureaucrats.

Sabyasachi Das has imparted his knowledge through teaching courses on political economy for Masters and Ph.D. students at ISI, Delhi, and has mentored Masters students at ISI in their thesis writing. During his time at Yale, he served as a Teaching Assistant for various undergraduate courses, covering subjects such as Public Economics, Law and Economics, and Statistics and Econometrics.

Economics became the constant thread in Professor Das's life, even though he briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a doctor or a bureaucrat. His college days were different from the semester system at Ashoka, allowing ample time for in-depth learning and leisurely reading of fiction.

As a cricket enthusiast, Professor Das laments the waning sense of community that the game once fostered. Back in India, cricket was a means for people to bond and come together, but that spirit seemed to diminish during his time at Yale University in the United States.

Being a Bengali, his love for food is no surprise. He recently impressed his friends with his culinary skills, preparing a delightful Hyderabadi Chicken. While not a fan of the infamous mess food, he appreciates the breakfast served at Ashoka.

India's ECI, public trust

The paper highlights India as a peculiar case due to its consistently high public trust in the election authority, the ECI. In 2019, two-thirds of Indian voters reported having confidence in the honesty of elections, a figure higher than many democracies with stronger institutions.

Nevertheless, recent developments have called the credibility of the ECI into question, including allegations of biased election scheduling and the arbitrary removal of registered Muslim voters' names, allegedly favoring the ruling party.

The research paper employed a novel method to detect potential manipulation, known as the McCrary test, which examines patterns in election data. It found a discontinuous jump in the density of the incumbent party's (Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP) win margins at the threshold value of zero in closely contested constituencies. This finding indicates that BJP won disproportionately more of these closely contested constituencies than lost, raising concerns about possible manipulation.

Two hypotheses explored: "precise control" and "electoral manipulation." Results favor manipulation, showing potential voter registration manipulation and targeted suppression of Muslim voters, who typically do not support BJP. Analysis included electorate growth, EVM turnout discrepancies, and counting observer assignment.

Limited evidence, democratic backsliding, vigilance

However, the paper does not offer conclusive evidence on the overall extent of manipulation or its impact on the government formation. Despite the limited scope, the research highlights a worrying development for Indian democracy and its implications for democratic backsliding.

The analysis contributes to the debate on democratic backsliding by grounding claims in objective evidence. It also sheds light on the weakening of electoral institutions in consolidated democracies, such as India, and its potential contribution to democratic erosion.

In robust democracies, politicians can employ subtler strategies of electoral manipulation, and it's crucial to remain vigilant in safeguarding the democratic process, as the study reminds us. The revelations from this research may spark further scrutiny and calls for electoral reforms to ensure the integrity of India's democratic institutions.

Turnout manipulation, Muslim discrimination, India

The study examines potential turnout manipulation in areas with high Muslim voter presence during the 2019 Indian elections. It finds that in constituencies narrowly won by the BJP, there is a higher likelihood of "large" discrepancies in voter turnout data, indicating possible manipulation.

The manipulation is concentrated in areas with lower Muslim voter presence, suggesting precise control. On the other hand, in areas with higher Muslim voter presence, the manipulation is less pronounced, suggesting electoral discrimination against Muslims.

These findings provide evidence of potential election irregularities related to voter registration and voting, particularly in constituencies with close electoral contests and varying Muslim voter shares.

Evidence: BJP's disproportionate wins, manipulation

The working paper by @sabya_economist presents scientific evidence that suggests voter manipulation by the BJP during the 2019 parliamentary elections in India. The study utilizes a combination of diverse datasets, including election results from 1977-2019, EVM turnout data for 2019, voter rolls with name classifiers, national election surveys, and data on counting observers.

One of the key pieces of evidence presented in the paper is related to "Close Elections." The paper highlights that the BJP won a disproportionate number of "close" elections in 2019. Close elections refer to contests that are highly competitive and could swing either way.

BJP showed unusual election patterns

The study conducts a McCrary test to identify discontinuity in the distribution of win margins in Indian elections. The test is applied to both the BJP and INC parties, focusing on the 2019 general election.

The analysis reveals a significant jump in the density of BJP win margins near zero, indicating that the party had a higher likelihood of winning closely contested elections compared to other parties. While such a failure of the McCrary test is rare, it was observed only in the 2019 elections in India.

The interpretation of this finding suggests two possible mechanisms. One possibility is the manipulation of election results in favour of the BJP, the incumbent party. The other explanation is that the BJP, due to its superior organizational strength and election campaign strategy, could precisely predict and control win margins, especially in closely contested constituencies, leading to its higher success rate.

The analysis examines evidence of potential election manipulation at different stages: voter registration, voting, and counting. The analysis suggests strategic deletion of voters' names, turnout manipulation through discrepancies in EVM data, and biased assignment of counting observers in favor of the BJP in closely contested constituencies.

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