May 22, 2024

Moon Desk: This is not a free and fair election. The repercussions and ramifications of this rigging and fixing will be felt throughout Narendra Modi’s third term in office. This election — even before it takes place — has damaged and will further damage our republic.
One need not expend much labor on making the case that the election is rigged.
Two chief ministers are in jail. Why? Not because they are convicted but because they have been jailed by agencies controlled by Modi.
The Congress party has no access to its bank accounts. Why? Not because it has been convicted but because it is being manhandled by agencies controlled by Modi.
Those who have been previously booked by the same agencies have now been given clean chits after they switched their allegiance to the NDA.
In no real democracy does this happen?
We don’t even have to go into the electoral bonds scandal.
The strange thing is that most people had assumed Modi would return to power in 2024; so why do this?
Perhaps it is just who he is. That is the most natural explanation for those who have noted with alarm the sequence of events that led to this pass.
This includes the outside world and especially the institutions that study democracy. They have been telling us for years now that India is not fully free, that its democracy has slid and that it has become authoritarian.
V-Dem, inside the University of Gothenburg, classified India as an ‘electoral autocracy’ in 2018. In its 2024 report, released in March, it said India was ‘one of the worst autocratisers’.
In 2020, the Economist Intelligence Unit classified India as a ‘flawed democracy’, saying that ‘democratic norms have been under pressure since 2015’.
In 2021, Freedom House, the think tank in Washington, said India was now not free but only ‘partly free’. The rating has remained since.
The government’s response to the Freedom House finding was to trot out a press release which said: ‘Many states in India under its federal structure are ruled by parties other than the one at the national level, through an election process which is free and fair and which is conducted by an independent election body. This reflects the working of a vibrant democracy, which gives space to those who hold varying views.’
This was dishonest.
The Freedom House report had two parts. The first, given 40 percent weightage, was on political rights. Here India got a score of 34/40 (falling to 33/40 in 2023), including full marks for free and fair elections, impartiality of the Election Commission, freedom to start political parties and opportunities for the Opposition to increase their power.
What should we now expect in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and after the polls? If Modi is able to get a very large majority and the vaunted 400 seats he claims he will, then the election will be seen the same way those in Russia and North Korea are. There will be no credibility to the results and that stain will remain through the next term of the government.
On the other hand, if he gets fewer seats than in 2019 but manages a simple majority; the Opposition will not be cowed down easily this time. They already know he will misuse authority and abuse his office to put them in jail.
Prime Minister Modi can coin grand phrases like ‘Mother of Democracy’, but it has been apparent for some time now that this is not only untrue but a joke.
The author is an Indian journalist and activist.

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