Dhruv rather

It's been less than a week since YouTuber and influencer Dhruv Rathee's video hit social media. The video, titled 'Is India becoming a Dictatorship', has garnered over 16 million views and counting. In the video, he points out that elections being held in a country are not the true barometer of whether a nation is a democracy. After all, regular elections are held in North Korea and Russia too. But both countries are far from being democracies.

"If you don't vote for a candidate representing the government in North Korea, you'll be called anti-national. In fact your job and house can be impounded too," he says in the video, moving onto Russia. "Russia holds elections too, but every candidate against Putin either gets disqualified, jailed, murdered, or vanishes under mysterious circumstances."

Democracy essentially means a fair chance for every political party to participate in elections and make their voice reach the people. Then on, the video cites the example of the Chandigarh Mayor elections. Where the presiding officer defaces the ballot paper to announce the results in favour of BJP. "Had CCTV cameras not caught him and had ballot papers not been there, what would have happened?" he questions.

Rathee has posted the video with a special message for the supporters of India's ruling party BJP, asking them to watch his video with an open mind. He also clarified that, "Personal attacks on me are a diversion. The real issue is something very serious if you truly care about the nation. Wake up!"

The video gives a point-by-point rebuttal of how democracy is in great danger under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Governors interfering with the working of state governments, electoral funding, and protestors being met with tear gas, are some of the key issues it touches on.

Weaponization of investigative agencies

Moving on, the thirty-minute-long video cites the weaponization of investigating agencies like the ED and Income Tax Department, which allegedly work in connivance with the government. Horse trading is the ugly flipside of democracy that raises its head every now and then. As per the video, if horse trading doesn't work in favour of the ruling BJP, investigative agencies are unleashed against the opposition leaders.

"As many as 14 political parties got together and complained to the Supreme Court how CBI and ED are being used to either target opposition leaders or harass them into silence or joining BJP." Thrown in are statistics showing that since 2014, there has been a jump of four times in ED cases and 95% of these cases are against opposition leaders, and the conviction rate is a dismal 0.5%.

What does the mainstream media do?

Recognizing the role of media, the video also makes the observation that the ruling party is hardly ever questioned on the majority of mainstream news channels, and opposition governments and leaders are held accountable.

"In our media channels, only the ruling party is praised twenty-four seven; their message spread across the audience, but the opposition is not given any coverage." It shows clippings of anchors who call PM Modi, "a person with solution to all problems, every mother's dream son, every son's idol, inimitable, unmatched, PM no 1, among many other things."

ASEAN centre point of India's Act East policy: PM Modi
File photoIANS

Question mark on EVMs

He also points out a news piece from 2021 reporting that in Assam, an EVM machine was caught inside the vehicle of a BJP candidate, because of which the Election Commission had to order repolling. Recently, in February 2024, three unknown people stole the control unit of the EVM in Assam's Saswad ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Election Commission, an extension of BJP: Video

Election Commission is the backbone of free and fair elections in any country but how compromised or objective are they? "The first one to accuse EC of being biased and partial was Narendra Modi himself in 2014. Although he won the elections that year. However in the past 10 years there have been so many allegations against the EC that political analyst Prashant Kishore himself said EC is an extension of BJP," says Dhruv Rathee in the video.

Exemplifying his statements and allegations with newspaper clippings and video footage, Dhruv says that PM Modi openly flouted the rules and used the names of the Indian Army and Pulwama Martyrs for political campaigning.

In the video, PM Modi can be seen and heard saying, "I want to tell my first time voters that your first vote in the name of Pulwama for those who got martyred." Moving on, the video also shows Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath calling the Indian Army, "as Modiji's sena." For twenty one days, the election commission did not take any action against the complaints and then onwards gave clean chit in both cases. "PM Modi has got atleast four clean chits in different cases. Amit Shah compared Rahul Gandhi's constituency Wayanad to Pakistan, but EC again gave clean chit," says Rathee.

He adds, "However, one election commissioner Ashok Lavasa dissented in at least five of seven cases where clean chit was given but later on his wife, son and sister were all raided and served notices by the IT department. Finally, Lavasa was also removed from the EC."

He also highlights the amended law, wherein the Election Commissioner will now be appointed by the PM, his appointee, and the Chief Justice of India, making the CEC in effect a person appointed by the PM.

Has the BJP countered Rathee's video?

A few opinion pieces in the media publications have disagreed with Rathee, saying that if India were a dictatorship, he wouldn't be able to make and upload such a video. They also point out that PM Modi revoked farm laws and never attempted to advance the Uniform Civil Code, so he is not a dictator.

Rathee, who stays in Germany, has also received a significant number of trolls on his timeline pointing out that he was patriotic, and should stay in India. Apart from the huge uproar and outrage on social media from BJP supporters, no one from the ruling party has officially addressed any of the allegations and points raised by Rathee.