Is Congress Planning Election Denial? Evidence Suggests So

Anmol Jain

Jun 03, 2024, 04:39 PM | Updated 05:29 PM IST

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi
  • A Modi victory looks likely on 4 June.
  • A Congress denial of the democratic mandate also looks probable.
  • Desh me aag lag jayegi,” Rahul Gandhi declared in an election rally, on 30 March. In fact, the day after Rahul Gandhi made these remarks, PM Modi had warned of this attempt at public mandate denial in an election rally.

    Remember the US Capitol Riots of 6 January 2020? Unrest, chaos, rioting. That appears to be the template. If you can’t win 2024, just discredit the mandate and system itself. 

    Mandate denial, even if based on the flimsiest of aspersions, is ready to be deployed in India. 

    Behind mandate denial

    When the Indian cricket team lost a match to Australia, as kids our first argument to rationalise and cope with our disappointment would be: “There’s a spring in Ponting and Gilchrist’s bat.” We wanted to believe that Australia didn’t win fair and square, and we wanted validation from others in our beliefs. 

    Now extrapolate this to elections. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, his coterie, and allies are spreading the narrative that if BJP and Modi win this election, it’s only because the exercise was not free and fair. Hence, they’ll call it a “stolen election.”

    To prop up this narrative, issues like EVM tampering are manufactured. No matter how many times the Supreme Court reprimands the frivolous attempts of “certain vested interest groups endeavouring to undermine the achievements and accomplishments of the nation.” 

    The Supreme Court in its verdict on the EVM-VVPAT case, on 26 April, came down heavily on the petitioners, calling out a “concerted effort to discredit, diminish, and weaken the progress of this great nation on every possible frontier” and that “any such effort, or rather attempt, has to be nipped in the bud.”

    The next step on this path is “mandate denial” or refusal to accept the results of the elections. 

    This is what happened when Donald Trump lost the US Presidential election in 2020. The 6 January Capitol Riots that followed are a glimpse of what could be on the minds of these “vested interest groups” in India. 

    To be sure, the groundwork for ‘mandate denial’ began several months ago, if not more than a year back. 

    Or maybe that is when this author began noticing and compiling a thread about this in August 2023. 

    Allow this writer to explain it as a ‘2C process’ – Conversation and Credibility.

    First C Conversation

    A buzz or a ‘mahaul’ is created on the ground, especially on social media. Slowly, that narrative is guided to a position of acceptability using stray comments and posts from compromised ‘influencers,’ ‘journalists,’ ‘analysts,’ and ‘intellectuals.’ 

    It starts with fringe tweets from lesser-known accounts and then begins to crawl into the mainstream, which is where the leaders themselves pick it up.

    In fact, their tweets do not directly push the “stolen election” narrative. Instead, they start making innuendos and casting aspersions on India’s democracy, electoral system, and integrity of its institutions. This way, a charade of deniability is maintained within a façade of an objective academic debate and assessment.

    See how this tweet from a now-suspended X account, peddles baseless insinuations like “Will Modi vacate the PM seat? Will he accept defeat?” followed by a subtle incitement like “People need to be ready for massive protests.”

    Ravi Nair is a journalist from Newsclick — the allegedly China-funded website which engaged in disinformation campaigns on COVID-19, farm-law protests, and Delhi riots. He goes one step ahead and says “BJP-RSS cannot afford to lose the 2024 election and be out of power… The question is will they allow an election — a free and fair one?” See how the post is craftily framed as an innocent question. 

    In the same category is the ploy to create doubts about voter roll manipulation and EVMs. Recollect the shady ‘working paper’ by Sabyasachi Das in which he tried to cast similar aspersions.

    Das probably reckoned he wouldn't have to prove his claims. He just had to dish out a sensational heading for the ‘paper’ — “Democratic Backsliding in the World’s Largest Democracy.” The paper's innuendo had already done the damage once it was shared widely by the opposition and media. When scrutinised and called out, Das also played the victim.

    This unpublished paper by Sabyasachi Das was comprehensively debunked by several people here, here, and here

    When this paper was debunked, Yogendra Yadav wrote — “Something was fishy about 2019 polls for sure, but don’t expect Das’ paper to catch the fish” — essentially saying something is definitely wrong, we’re not sure what, but something is. 

    Yadav said, “Assumptions are good enough to suggest that we need to be on the guard, that EVMs can be manipulated, but these do not prove that EVMs have been used to manipulate election results.”

    Foreign interference

    Claiming something as drastic as stolen elections or mandate denial cannot be a standalone project. Soliciting ‘help’ from foreign media, NGOs, big tech, and deep state is an important part of this stunt.

    See the last line in this post from Raju Parulekar, “doubtful that elections in 2024 will be free & fair without international observers.” He insinuates that Indian elections are so vulnerable and democracy so fragile that international observers are needed for their successful conduct.

    More importantly, foreign interference is where Rahul Gandhi himself was seen taking charge. Rahul Gandhi’s foreign engagements with the help of his mentor-friend Sam Pitroda demand an entire piece of their own. Whenever he's on his foreign trips, Gandhi is more often than not found hobnobbing with dodgy folks like MEPs Alviina Alametsä and Pierre Larrouturou.

    He even went to the extent of virtually inviting foreign powers to interfere in India's domestic politics. Rahul stated that “the so-called defenders of democracy like US and Europe are not doing enough to restore democracy in India… because of the trade and money they are getting.”

    In London, Rahul Gandhi was found complaining that Indian diplomats don't listen to their European counterparts. Gandhi said that European bureaucrats told him that the “Indian Foreign Service has completely changed, they don’t listen to anything, they’re arrogant.”

    The pertinent question here is — who is Rahul Gandhi actually addressing whenever he goes abroad? His comments surely don’t please Indians (or NRIs) and definitely didn't translate to votes here at home. On the contrary, it only harmed the prospects of his party. 

    Sure enough, before the Lok Sabha elections in March 2024, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk made unsolicited alarmist comments on Indian elections. As always these comments came right after Gandhi’s foreign visit.

    Add to this the relentless obsession of foreign media to raise doubts on Indian elections — be it Andy Mukherjee’s piece on Bloomberg, “India’s Voting Machines Are Raising Too Many Questions” or Le Monde France’s “India's elections this year stand out for their undemocratic nature.”

    Edward Luce of the Financial Times questioned if this will be India’s last democratic election. This is the same trope that has been used before every election since 2014 — “This will be India’s last election if Modi wins.” Guardian, Financial Times, Foreign Policy Mag, Bloomberg, The Irish Times, AFP — all engaged in such attacks on Indian elections.

    Back to election denial

    After BJP won assembly polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh in December 2023, a flurry of mandate denial tweets came up along with the sinister #NorthvsSouth narrative.

    “I Do Not Accept this Verdict... It’s manipulated, organized in a particular way to make fascist agenda run for 2024... It’s a Conspiracy!” said this account which is followed by Pawan Khera, the Chairman, Media & Publicity Department of Congress. 

    In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, came other posts like these — “If BJP loses in the 2024 LS they are going to let loose riot like situations in the country.”

    Puram, the author of ‘South vs North: India’s Great Divide,’ makes a ‘zestful’ call for foreign intervention. He says, “The BJP now has so much money that it can buy elections for a generation. The only way India will get a non-BJP government is if Uncle Sam decided the incumbents are not in the interests of ‘freedom’… I must say, the devil does sound seductive when one finds oneself in the deep sea.”

    As the 2024 elections came closer the “stolen elections” related stray tweets increased in their intensity and volume.

    Even journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai started pitching in by furthering aspersions like “Will we see a free and fair election in 2024?” and calls for a “level playing field” based on comments of the US State Department spokesperson.

    Suhas Palshikar made similar claims during the arrest of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal that 2024 “elections simply won’t be fair, much less free.”

    Or sample this post worrying about “transition of power.” The author says, “I don't believe that Modi government will get a third term in office… My worry is the transition of power — whether it will be smooth as per law & traditions. Or there will be distasteful surprises which will tarnish image of our great nation!”

    Aakar Patel posts a supposedly quirky post indicating how this election is rigged — “if it looks like a rigged and talks like a rigged and walks like a rigged it must be a free and fair.”

    Ravi Nair was back on EVMs, “If it were not for EVMs manufactured by the PSUs controlled by the Modi government, where BJP leaders are directors, Modi and Shah wouldn't dare to say their party/coalition would win more than 400 seats.”

    Avi Dandiya who is the Chief Social Media In-charge of the Indian Overseas Congress says, “They stole your airports, docks, railways, coal mines what makes you think that they can’t steal your election.”

    The list is long. You can look for more such tweets in this compilation

    What’s more dangerous is the next step in the 2C process — Credibility.

    Second C Credibility

    Such alarmist conversations eventually find acceptance from the usual suspects in the mainstream before political leaders finally pick them up. When that happens, the narrative gains some weight and is made into a legitimate issue even when it is blatant propaganda.

    Rahul Gandhi spelt it out when he said about a probable Modi victory: “Desh me aag lag jayegi.”

    Priyanka Gandhi went on to say, “if the elections go in the right manner, and there is no discrepancy, BJP will not even get 200 seats.”

    On 21 May, The Wire published “Should BJP Face Defeat in Lok Sabha Polls, Can We Expect Peaceful Transfer of Power?” As the preceding paras of this article show, this is nothing but preemptive mandate denial. 

    Readers must have also noticed how Congress IT cell members have been, for months at end, sharing fake internal surveys and satta bazaar predictions about the seat share. All these ‘surveys’ invariably show BJP losing. This too appears to be a part of creating the mahaul

    The end game

    This did not begin only when Congress (initially) planned to boycott the exit polls calling them ‘Modi’s Exit Polls.’ 

    Prawin Sawhney had, on 26 May, dragged Army into this by alleging that “one-month extension in tenure to army chief Manoj Pande could be to use his services to help Modi gov extend it's stay in power if it loses elections on June 4… I too am worried about what the Modi govt is up to. Will the transition of power be peaceful or not? What role will Pande & Anil Chauhan play in this? I never imagined that I would be writing this on Indian army leadership!” 

    This handle targeted AxisMyIndia even before exit polls were out. “This indicates a definite attempt to rig the elections on behalf of the BJP,” he insinuated.

    Another journalist said it in plain words here on May 28 — “Next time you come across an ad for exit polls, remember the BJP's media machine... Exit Polls are a clever way to drill into us the inevitability of a Modi victory. It could be the first step to 'steal' the election.”

    Then some ‘civil societies,’ which tend to prop up conveniently, “raise concerns about potential 'manipulation' of votes on counting day.” They go on to say that they may approach the Supreme Court for cancellation of elections. 

    Before heading back to Tihar Jail after his bail extension plea was rejected, Arvind Kejriwal too made remarks on exit polls and EVMs. 

    “Exit Polls for 2024 Lok Sabha Elections have come out yesterday. Take it in writing, all these exit polls are fake… The real issue is why they had to do a fake exit poll 3 days before the day of counting. There are several theories regarding this, one of them is that they are trying to manipulate the machines (EVMs).”

    Congress ally and former UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said earlier today “The results of the elections were distorted by some corrupt media persons and officers. The corrupt policies of the BJP are bad for the future of India. The public is in the ‘Do or Die’ mode of Mahatma Gandhi and is ready to start a new independence movement. The public is ready to sacrifice like freedom fighters. The youth is saying ‘Mera Rang De Basanti Chola’.”

    That something is definitely afoot is suggested by statements and tweets of long-time Congress watchers.

    Journalist Pallavi Ghosh, who has been covering the Congress since many years, said this about the party’s plan for counting day: “I’m telling you, mark my words. On counting day, on some key booths, which are on key fights, there will be bawaal (unrest).”

    Barkha Dutt too tweeted: “Agree or not with #Exitpolls - some statements from opposition leaders are alarming & uncalled for & seem to be setting stage for a kind of election denialism.  Whoever wins, India has always peacefully transitioned from one elected government to the next. May it stay that way”.

    Finally, the BJP has approached the Election Commission complaining about “grave and coordinated attempts by opposition parties, led by the Indian National Congress, and certain motivated civil society groups to undermine the integrity of the ongoing electoral process… These efforts are a direct attack on our democratic institutions and pose significant risks to public order and trust in the electoral system.”

    The party said, “The pattern is clear: first, target the institutions; then, the election process; and if court verdicts do not favour them, target the judicial verdicts.”

    “Despite clear verdicts from the people, the opposition has resorted to a series of unfounded claims aimed at discrediting the election process. Opposition parties and their affiliated civil societies have systematically orchestrated campaigns over the past several years to target the judiciary and the Election Commission of India (ECI).”


    Earlier, the refrain of the BJP’s opposition was — “This will be India’s last election if Modi wins.” Now that elections are happening and Modi is most likely getting re-elected for a third time, that refrain is tending towards mandate denial. 

    This will not just affect this election but will deal long-term damage to Indian democracy. 

    This gives foreign powers a chip to meddle in India’s domestic politics. Once the credibility of Indian democracy falls, the ground is open for regime change and interference in the name of ‘restoring’ it. Vigilance against such mischief is warranted.

    This mandate denial also feeds directly into Rahul Gandhi’s consistent raising of India’s fault lines — be it North vs South, dividing Hindus using caste and Jitni Abadi Utna Haq, or the line that “India is not a nation, it only a union of states.”

    Fortunately, it is unlikely to get any common support on the ground. If anything, this will further damage the tattered credibility of Rahul Gandhi and Congress.

    It is in the interest of the Congress party to gracefully accept a likely and impending defeat and respect the public mandate. 

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