Swedish organization V-Dem recently released its annual ranking of democracies around the world. And it labelled India, as “Electoral Autocracy”, inferring that elections are mere formalities, and power is in absolute control of one man. When an organization like V-Dem, which follows a “Data-driven Methodology” to rank democracies on various parameters, makes such a claim, it is obvious to make you a closer look.
We take a look at some of their data, and explanations provided in their dedicated section about India “Democracy Broken Down: India”.
Claim-1 Fairness of Election
The claim looks outlandish from the fact that 900 million voters regularly cast their votes to vote out and vote in the politicians whom they think most suitable to govern. Just a look at the India’s map depicting BJP ruled states between 2017 and 2019, tells the story how free & fair elections take place in India where ruling parties change often.
Swarajya did an analysis of their Data for various parameters which according to them contributed towards this STEEP FALL of autonomy of “Election Management Body”:
- Election Commission Autonomy: in 1975 (during Emergency time when Elections didnt take place at all) the score was 1.487, in 2019 it is 0.771.
- Election Voter Registry: in 2014 the score was 1.136, in 2019 it is 0.732
- Election Other Voting Irregularities: in 2019 the score went into negative -0.059
- Election Free and Fair: Score in 2014 was 1.691, in 2019 it is 0.594
- Election Loser Accepts Defeat: the Score dropped from 1.358 in 2014 to 1.163 in 2019
Apparently, there are no evidences provided why there is a sudden drop in 2019 compared to 2014, which clocked a Record Voter turnout at 67.11% v/s 65.95% in 2014.Do the Authors really believe that Elections are compromised in India? Can they provide any evidence of what has changed from 2014 to 2019? except Mr. Modi has come back with a Bigger Mandate which may not of their Liking.
It makes an astonishing claim that Indian Govt “rarely” used to exercise censorship before Modi became Prime Minister.
India has a “glorious history” of censorship under Congress led Govt. Under UPA Govt, which was predecessor of Modi Govt, IT Minister Kapil Sibal had tried to intimidate Social Media companies to remove the Posts/Pages which were mocking Sonia Gandhi, the Congress President.
It even went ahead with Blocking of 309 web items include Youtube Videos, Facebook Pages, Twitter Accounts, which was ill thought and a PR Disaster for the Govt.
Author and Commentator, Anand Ranganathan has documented 250+ Incidents of Freedom of Expression being suppressed under Congress led UPA Govt, which he had crowdsourced in response to the Claims of Rahul Gandhi & Congress that they stand for Free Speech.
And this is just a sample and not an exhaustive list.
Can the Authors of the Report produce verifiable data for giving a score of 3.5 out 4 to Modi’s predecessor Govt, and how much % of increase of Censorship under Modi Govt, which caused this drastic drop of a Score from 3.5 to 1.5?
On this false premise, they make further ridiculous claim of India being at the same pedestal of Pakistan, where Army and Intelligence Agencies are notorious for making Activists & Journalists disappear.
This doesn’t even deserve a Rebuttal.
Citing a Source it claims that,
Consider following facts:
- Between 2010 till 2020, 65% of 11000 people charged under sedition were under Modi Govt. But this is also true that Modi has been also in Power close to 60% of the time during this period.
- Union home ministry has started collecting Sedition Cases data through the National Crime Records Bureau only since 2014
- Therefore, while the Data after Modi Govt coming to Power, can be regarded as accurate. The Data before 2014, is at the best on the mercy(efficiency) of the Source which could always be disputed and have some error of margin.
The Source, is a 2016 Report, which has been referenced to make an assertion to rate India’s Democracy in 2020.
Nowhere does that Report, mentions instances of how Journalists and News Outlets taking exception of BJP Govt Policies, are targeted through Criminal Defamation Laws.
If you read through the “Basis(Source)” for this inference
One of them is an open Letter to Home Minister Amit Shah, appealing to him to release Safoora Zargar because she is pregnant, and others because of Covid-19.
India has so many Undertrials who are pregnant, and there are so many people who are serving sentences, even during Covid-19 times. Its astounding what makes Authors think that these so called “Activists” are special, and deserve a special treatment in the eyes of Law compared to thousands and lacs of other Under-trials?
It is also astonishing that this Report solely relies on the “one-sided narrative” of these so called Student Activists
It is a blatant lie. They are not punished for protesting against Govt, rather conspiring for Delhi Riots which claimed the Lives of 50+ innocent people.
Delhi Police has filed the Chargesheet against Safoora Zargar that she incited Mob to Riot.
While rejecting the Bail Plea, Delhi Court observed,
“When you choose to play with embers, you cannot blame the wind”
Delhi Police has investigated the Case, and filed chargesheet against Umar Khalid, Safoora Zargar and many others of conspiring for Riots in Delhi.
Court Proceedings are ongoing, it is preposterous, that V-Dem assumes itself the Role of Judiciary and infers that there is no merit in the case against them and they are innocents.
This is a False Claim. The CAA Bill applies only to those “persecuted Minorities” from three neighboring Islamic Countries Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, who have migrated to India before December 31, 2014. It allows them to fast track their Naturalization towards Indian Citizenship.
It does not deny Muslims right to Citizenship. They can continue to apply for Indian Citizenship through normal process, and get it like 4000+ people whogot Indian Citizenship in past 6 years during Modi Govt. Many of them are Muslims too.
Every Country has the right to decide their immigration policies, and determine who should be the targeted group for it. US also has similar Lautenberg amendment which enables citizenship to identified persecuted religious minorities in the erstwhile former Soviet Union. Iran was also added later through the Specter Amendment.
Apparently, V-Dem has relied upon the Opinion of Human Rights Watch and BBC to declare that Bill passed by both houses of India’s Parliament are unconstitutional, and India’s Supreme Court can go on vacation.
Unfortunately for them, India’s Democracy is still alive and kicking and It is India’s Judiciary who can decide whether a Law brought by Parliament is as per constitution or violates it.
If V-Dem or Human Rights Watch or BBC are so concerned about India’s Democracy, they should respect various Organs of it and file a petition in India’s Supreme Court to argue against it.
While we can appreciate V-Dem’s effort to try to quantify and adopt a data driven approach to rank the democracies however, it seems that their entire premise is marred by “Input Bias”. If your Basis is “selective” “one sided narrative”, no wonder the Data derived would also reflect that.
Garbage In, Garbage Out.