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Ashoka University: Fresh Controversy Unfolds With Research Paper On BJP's Alleged Vote Manipulation In 2019 Polls

Ashoka university has maintained distance and disclaimed any responsibility for the social media activity or public activism done by any faculty, students or staff in their 'individual capacity' and they have also issued a statement clarifying that the content of the research paper does not show the university's position.

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A fresh controversy emerged involving  Ashoka University's name following publication of a research paper by faculty member Sabyasachi Das. What triggered the political slugfest is the discussion on alleged vote manipulation by the BJP in the 2019 general election mentioned in the research paper.

The response from the university

In light of the controversial incident, the university has maintained distance and disclaimed any responsibility for the social media activity or public activism done by any faculty, students or staff in their 'individual capacity'.

The university issued a statement and clarified that the content of the research paper does not show the university's position.

“The University encourages its 160-plus faculty to carry out research, but does not direct or approve specific research projects by individual faculty members…To the best of our knowledge, the paper in question has not yet completed a critical review process and has not been published in an academic journal,” the university said.

About the paper

Titled 'Democratic Backsliding in the World's largest Democracy', the research paper came to the limelight and became an issue of political debate after Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and BJP MP Nishikant Dubey critically commented on the findings of the research paper.

The research paper "contributes to the discussion by documenting irregular patters in 2019 general election in India and identifying whether they are due to electoral manipulation or precise control, i.e., incumbent party's ability to precisely predict and affect win margins through campaigning"

"I compile several new datasets and present evidence that is consistent with electoral manipulation in closely contested constituencies and is less supportive of the precise control hypothesis. Manipulation appears to take the form of targeted electoral discrimination against India's largest minority group - Muslims, partly facilitated by weak monitoring by election observers. The results present a worrying development for the future of democracy," the abstract of the 50-page research paper said.

Who said what: The political responses

Sharing a Twitter thread on the research, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said it is "hugely troubling".

"If the Election Commission and/or the Government of India have answers available to refute these arguments, they should provide them in detail. The evidence presented does not lend itself to political attacks on a serious scholar. E.g. the discrepancy in vote tallies needs to be explained, since it can't be wished away," Tharoor wrote.

BJP MP Nishikant Dubey said Ashoka University's reply on Sabyasachi Das's research paper is not good enough.

"It is fine to differ with the BJP on matters of policy but this is taking it too far…how can someone in the name of half-baked research discredit India’s vibrant poll process? How can any University allow it? Answers needed- this is not good enough a response," the BJP MP said.

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