"The Indian government has been secretly working to keep its reputation as the
“world’s largest democracy” alive after being called out by researchers for
serious democratic backsliding under the nationalist rule of Narendra Modi,
according to internal reports seen by the Guardian
Despite publicly dismissing several global rankings that suggest the country is
on a dangerous downward trajectory, officials from government ministries have
been quietly assigned to monitor India’s performance, minutes from meetings
News of the meetings comes as Modi makes a state visit to the US to hold talks
with President Joe Biden and speak to Congress.
According to the minutes, senior Indian officials have held at least four
meetings since 2021 to discuss why the country’s ranking in the global
Democracy Index, prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit, had fallen
consistently under Modi’s leadership since 2016 to a low in 2020. India is
described as a “flawed democracy”, according to the organisation.
Other rankings have also raised concerns. In 2021, the US-based not-for-profit
Freedom House downgraded India’s status from a free democracy to a “partially
free democracy”. Meanwhile, the V-Dem Institute, based in Sweden, classifies
India as an “electoral autocracy”.
In public, the Indian government has dismissed these rankings, arguing that
Delhi did not “need sermons”, according to the foreign affairs minister, S
Jaishankar. He accused the rankings of hypocrisy and called them
“self-appointed custodians of the world who find it very difficult to stomach
that somebody in India is not looking for their approval”.
Nevertheless, behind closed doors, the response has been less self-assured and
more panicked. In one meeting to assess the rankings, a senior official said:
“[The] prime minister was giving more importance to the Democracy Index and was
keen to get improved rankings since India is the largest democratic country in
This, the bureaucrat added, gave utmost importance to the Democracy Index as it
affected the reputation of India. Concerns have been raised as recently as
February that these rankings should not be ignored as mere opinions, he said,
as they could affect international business in India if the country is seen as
a politically risky place to invest."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics