Democratic Backsliding in the World’s Largest Democracy

50 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2023 Last revised: 2 Aug 2023

Date Written: July 3, 2023


Democratic backsliding is a growing concern globally. This paper contributes to the discussion by documenting irregular patterns 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.

Keywords: Electoral fraud, precise control, democracy, economics of religion

JEL Classification: D72, D73, P00, Z12

Suggested Citation

Das, Sabyasachi, Democratic Backsliding in the World’s Largest Democracy (July 3, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Sabyasachi Das (Contact Author)

Ashoka University ( email )

Rajiv Gandhi Education City, Plot #2,
Rai, Haryana 131029


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