On March 24, Narendra Modi announced a lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Even by the standards of other drastic containment measures imposed around the world, India’s restrictions were the harshest. They brought the economy of 1.3 billion people to a juddering halt.

The lockdown was announced at four hour’s notice and with no preparation. Because public transport was shut down, lakhs of stranded Indians were forced to walk or cycle back home, often making superhuman trips across hundreds of kilometres. One commentator described it as the “biggest human migration on foot after Partition”. The harshness of India’s lockdown is estimated to have resulted in more than 400 deaths.

The scale of the restrictions caused the Indian economy to shrink by a never-before 23.9% in the April-June quarter. Covid-19 has afflicted every country in the world, but India’s contraction was the most dramatic of any major economy.

Going scot free

What was the political impact of this unprecedented dislocation? In a word: none. As the Bihar Assembly as well a spate of bye-poll results came in on Tuesday, it was clear that while Indians suffered immensely due to the lockdown, they did not attach much blame to the measure’s author, the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The saffron party won 74 seats in...

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