Raghuram Rajan lavished praise on the Election Commission of India (ECI) on November 9 during a speech at the University of California Berkeley.
Speaking more freely about India than at any point since demitting office as Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor in September 2016, the Chicago Booth School of Business professor addressed issues relating to economy and governance. Towards the end of the hour-long speech, while elaborating on the need for strong institutions to serve as a checks-and-balance mechanism on the government, he dismissed a claim that a lot of political parties have made over the last two years regarding elections in India.
"What is interesting about India is that every so often, one of these institutions will find its role", Rajan said, adding, "For example, the Election Commission suddenly became an election commission with teeth and it has continued that role."
Having said this, he spoke about election rigging in the Indian context, putting forth, "Today the notion that an election will be stolen in India is something that most people don't think is possible simply because we have the systems in place to protect against that."
The endorsement from the former RBI Governor for the ECI comes after nearly a year and a half of unsubstantiated allegations by political parties regarding Electronic Voter Machines, or EVMs. It was BSP supremo Mayawati who had first sensationally claimed that EVMs were rigged, in the aftermath of the 2017 Uttar Pradesh election where her party suffered a huge loss and the BJP registered a stunning victory. Similar allegations have repeatedly been levelled by Samajwadi party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and others, a number of them seeking a return of paper ballots for forthcoming elections, including the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Rajan, who spoke about Demonetisation and GST openly for the first time in the same lecture, went on to name other institutions that similarly 'have teeth':
"So similarly, we have a number of institutions, the CAG headed by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the CCI (Competition Commission of India) -- whole bunch of institutions that are coming up -- ultimately we have to strengthen them because ultimately they are checks and balances on the government", Rajan said.