Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, a staunch critic of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, on Thursday said India no longer remained a democratic country.

The politician shared a news clip of a research project by Sweden-based Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute, which said that India’s status had been lowered from the “world’s largest democracy” to an “electoral autocracy” under the Narendra Modi government. It said that India was now as autocratic as Pakistan in censorship and worse than Bangladesh and Nepal.

“India is no longer a democratic country,” Gandhi wrote on Twitter.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury also shared the report on Twitter and highlighted some of its key findings about the democratic backsliding in India. “What a shame,” he wrote.

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India has turned into an ‘electoral autocracy’, says Swedish institute

The Varieties of Democracy Institute had said last year that the Bharatiya Janata Party now closely resembles a “typical governing party in an autocracy”. In 2020, India was classified as “highly uncertain”. But according to the research organisation, with more and better data this year, India is now classified with a higher degree of certainty as an “electoral autocracy” from 2019.

It said that after Modi became the prime minister, censorship efforts became routine and were no longer related to only government matters. The government has constrained civil society and gone against the Constitution’s commitment to secularism, the V-Dem report said.

It added that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, amended in 2019, was being used to “harass, intimidate, and imprison political opponents” as well as against people protesting against the government’s policies.

Last week, India’s status on Freedom House’s report on political rights and civil liberties was lowered to “partly free” in the United States government-funded non-governmental organisation’s annual Freedom in the World rankings. In 2020, the organisation’s report ranked India as “free”.

“Political rights and civil liberties in the country have deteriorated since Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014, with increased pressure on human rights organizations, rising intimidation of academics and journalists, and a spate of bigoted attacks, including lynchings, aimed at Muslims,” the report read. “The decline only accelerated after Modi’s reelection in 2019.”

The Centre, however, said the report was “misleading, incorrect and misplaced”.