Ashoka University Faces Political Controversy Over Research Paper on Democratic Backsliding
TEN NEWS NETWORK
New Delhi, August 2, 2023: A research paper authored by Sabyasachi Das, an assistant professor of economics at Ashoka University, has sparked a political debate between the Congress and BJP. The paper titled “Democratic Backsliding In The World’s Largest Democracy” explores evidence in favor of the election manipulation hypothesis, focusing on the BJP’s disproportionate win in closely contested constituencies, particularly in states ruled by the party during the elections.
According to the paper, the density of the incumbent party’s win margin exhibited a discontinuous jump at the threshold value of zero, suggesting that the BJP won disproportionately more in constituencies where it was the incumbent party and the contests were closely fought.
The paper also argues that manipulation is local at the booth level, with a potential concentration of manipulation in constituencies where a high share of observers are state civil service officers from BJP-ruled states.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor expressed the need for the Election Commission or the Government of India to refute the arguments presented in the paper. Meanwhile, BJP MPs questioned the validity of the research, calling it an attempt to discredit India’s vibrant electoral process.
In response to the controversy, Ashoka University issued an official statement clarifying that the paper is yet to complete the critical review process and has not been published in any academic journal. The university emphasized its commitment to excellence in teaching and research, encouraging faculty to carry out research while valuing work that undergoes critical peer review and is published in reputable journals.
The findings of the paper have sparked widespread discussion, with both sides of the political spectrum offering their perspectives. However, the university reiterates that individual faculty members’ social media activity or public activism does not reflect the official stance of the institution.