Modi’s India plans its own democracy index, after global rankings downgrade.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has approached a major Indian think tank to develop a homegrown democracy ratings index that could help it counter recent downgrades in rankings issued by international groups that New Delhi fears could affect the country’s credit rating.

The Observer Research Foundation (ORF), which works closely with the Indian government on multiple initiatives, is preparing the ratings framework, according to two people closely involved in the discussions on the project. The index is expected to hew more closely to New Delhi’s narrative than Western-based rankings that Modi’s team has criticised.

“A review meeting was held by NITI Aayog in January, and it was decided that ORF will be releasing Democracy Rankings in a few weeks,” a top government official said, requesting anonymity.

The new rankings system could be released soon, the official said. How soon, though, is unclear – including whether the index might be unveiled before India’s upcoming national elections, announced last Saturday. India will vote in seven phases starting April 19, with votes counted on June 4. Modi is a strong favourite to return to power for a third term.

“The Democracy Index being prepared by ORF went through a peer review process and expert analysis on the methodology a few weeks ago … it is likely to be released soon,” a second source familiar with the development said.

ORF, which co-hosts the Raisina Dialogue – India’s equivalent of the Munich Security Conference and the Shangri-La Dialogue, other major geopolitics, and geo-economics conclaves – with the country’s Ministry of External Affairs, did not respond to queries from Al Jazeera. The Raisina Dialogue was held this year between February 21 and February 23.

The NITI Aayog, the government’s own public policy think tank that has been shepherding internal discussions within the Modi government on global rankings, said it was not preparing the index – but did not confirm nor deny whether it was involved in helping an external think tank prepare one.

“NITI is not developing any Democracy Index,” a spokesperson for the body told Al Jazeera. “The government of India monitors select global indices [by various global entities] to drive reforms and growth in the country.”

Yet emails and the minutes of meetings held between government agencies over the past three years, accessed and reviewed by Al Jazeera, point to a growing urgency within the Modi administration on challenging setbacks to India’s democracy credentials, including through a report prepared by India.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *