Ashoka University professor who made bizarre claims about ‘election manipulation’ in disputed ‘paper’ resigns, The Wire portrays him as a victim

Ashoka University professor who made bizarre claims about 'election manipulation' in disputed 'paper' resigns, The Wire portrays him as a victim

Sabyasachi Das, an economics professor at Ashoka University has reportedly resigned after the University distanced itself from his controversial ‘paper’ that made misleading, and bizarre claims alleging ‘election manipulation’ in India.

Leftist propaganda site The Wire published a report stating Das’ resignation from Ashoka University and added that the professor has refused to comment on it as he is ‘focusing on getting his paper published and not on media engagement’.

Wire tries to make a martyr out of Das, conveniently forgetting that his report had serious flaws

The Wire report has tried to make a martyr out of Das, asserting that he had to resign because of political pressure, and not due to the fact that the University had publicly denounced his attempts to create social media activism out of an unpublished, yet-to-be-peer-reviewed paper.

The report by The Wire states that Das’ findings were ‘attacked by BJP leaders’. It also cites unnamed faculty members of the university, playing up Das’ victimhood’ and insinuating that the resignation came due to undue political pressure on academic research, not due to the University publically denouncing a shoddy paper with glaring flaws presented as ‘research’.

Ashoka University’s tweet on Sabyasachi Das’ controversial paper

The University said, “Social media activity or public activism by Ashoka faculty, students or staff in their individual capacity does not reflect the stand of the University.”

Das’ X (formerly Twitter’ handle still has ‘Professor of Economics at Ashoka University’ in his bio.

How the shoddy paper by Das used flawed datasets and statistical jugglery to draw misleading, bizarre conclusions

An alleged ‘research paper’, unpublished so far in any academic journal and yet to be peer-reviewed, as clarified by Ashoka University, gained attention on social media recently. By claiming they have ‘scientific evidence’, the paper boasts that they have cracked how the BJP wins elections in India. It claimed that ‘manipulation’ is achieved by targeted discrimination against India’s largest minority group, Muslims.

The paper’s wild claims of election manipulation were amplified by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor too.

The paper suggests that the BJP wins more owing to ‘electoral manipulation’, that is, somehow deleting the names of voters from lists. That too, deleting the names of Muslim voters. Doing some wild math, Das claims in the paper that the BJP has won at least 11 seats in the 2019 elections by doing “voter manipulation”.

However, the claims made in the paper were disputed and even flawed. Twitter user @Saiarav discussed the claims, pointing out how Das makes unrealistic insinuations and skips crucial facts to paint a misleading picture.

“However, for the complicated statistical jugglery exhibited throughout the paper, it gets this basic fact wrong. This pattern of outperformance is not limited to NDA-ruled states. Out of the 41 seats it won, nearly half are from non-NDA states”, @Saiarav added.

Additionally, @Sairav also pointed out that the growth rate of the electorate in BJP-won seats was at par with the national average of the growth rate of the electorate, so the claims of ‘manipulation’ do not hold up. Also, the 4 seats that the BJP lost in Bengal by a close margin of 5% or less, had an electorate growth rate of approximately 11.6%, above the national average.

He also pointed out other factual errors and mistakes made in the paper, like citing Nabrangpur, Odisha as a ‘close contest’ for BJP when the party was a distant third, behind Congress, and citing 2 union territories of Andaman & Nicobar and Dadra and Nagar Haveli as non-BJP ruled areas.

Since then, @Sairav has published a detailed rebuttal of the controversial ‘paper’.

Economist Mudit Kapoor, from the Economics and Planning Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, also pointed out the flaws in Das’ paper in a detailed statistical analysis and shared the findings in a blogpost. “While interpreting statistical outcomes it is surprisingly easy to be “fooled by randomness” depending on one’s political preference. We are tricked by randomness to see patterns where none might exist”, Kapoor wrote in a tweet.

Kapoor added that the statistical findings in Das’ paper do not support the claims he is making.

It is notable here that the author has not responded to the posts highlighting the flaws in his report. Instead, a careful media game is being weaved by the likes of The Wire to peddle false victimhood, insinuating that the professor was allegedly made to resign because of political pressure, rather than the fact that the ‘paper’ has basic flaws and was used to create a social media buzz over unsubstantiated and misleading claims.

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