A year ago, it was clear that republican democracy was at a crossroads. The very term is about a place where choices are made about which direction to proceed in and at what pace. This isn’t the first time India has been at such a juncture, but there is a crucial difference. In May 2019, India’s voters didn’t just give the Modi-led NDA government a second term in office, they also increased the seats and voteshare of the ruling party. Together with allies, the BJP polled an impressive 45 per cent of the popular vote. This meant, at the very least, that there is one ruling party at the helm of affairs in New Delhi for a decade with a majority of its own—for the first time since the 1980s, when the Congress was in power under Indira Gandhi and then Rajiv.
There is another crucial difference: India then had very few opposition governments. Madras, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Guwahati, Aizawl and Srinagar were among the few state capitals where the CM was not from the Congress. The Congress under Indira, especially after 1972, commanded almost all the states. In March 1971, the Congress (R) secured a two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha. It then took over most states in the mid-term assembly polls in 1972. This was to be critical as unrest grew in 1974-75, first in Gujarat, followed by Bihar and then much, if not all, of India. The pattern broke in 1977-80, but Congress dominance was restored after 1980.