The Bharatiya Janata Party is one of the two major political parties in India, along with the Indian National Congress. As of 2016, it is the country’s largest political party in terms of representation in the national parliament and state assemblies, and it is the world’s largest party in terms of primary membership. The BJP is a right-wing party, with close ideological and organizational links to the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
The BJP’s origins lie in the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, formed in 1951 by Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. After the State of Emergency in 1977, the Jana Sangh merged with several other parties to form the Janata Party; it defeated the incumbent Congress party in the 1977 general election. After three years in power, the Janata party dissolved in 1980 with the members of the erstwhile Jana Sangh reconvening to form the BJP. Although initially unsuccessful, winning only two seats in the 1984 general elections, it grew in strength on the back of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Following victories in several state elections and better performances in national elections, the BJP became the largest party in the parliament in 1996; however, it lacked a majority in the lower house of Parliament, and its government lasted only 13 days.
After the 1998 general election, the BJP-led coalition known as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) formed a government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for a year. Following fresh elections, the NDA government, again headed by Vajpayee, lasted for a full term in office; this was the first non-Congress government to do so. In the 2004 general election, the NDA suffered an unexpected defeat, and for the next ten years the BJP was the principal opposition party. Long time Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi led it to a landslide victory in the 2014 general elections. Since that election, Modi leads the NDA government as Prime Minister and as of March 2017, the alliance governs 17 Indian states.
The official ideology of the BJP is “integral humanism”, first formulated by Deendayal Upadhyay in 1965. The party expresses a commitment to Hindutva, and its policy has historically reflected Hindu nationalist positions. The BJP advocates social conservatism and a foreign policy centered on nationalist principles. Its key issues have included the abrogation of the special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the building of a Ram temple in Ayodhya and the implementation of a uniform civil code. However, the 1998–2004 NDA government did not pursue any of these controversial issues. It instead focused on a largely neo-liberal economic policy prioritizing globalization and economic growth over social welfare.
Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951–77)
The BJP’s origins lie in the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, popularly known as the Jana Sangh, founded by Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in 1951 in response to the politics of the dominant Congress party. It was founded in collaboration with the Hindu nationalist volunteer organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and was widely regarded as the political arm of the RSS. The Jana Sangh’s aims included the protection of India’s “Hindu” cultural identity, in addition to countering what it perceived to be the appeasement of Muslim people and the country of Pakistan by the Congress party and then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The RSS loaned several of its leading pracharaks, or full-time workers, to the Jana Sangh to get the new party off the ground. Prominent among these was Deendayal Upadhyay, who was appointed General Secretary. The Jana Sangh won only three Lok Sabha seats in the first general elections in 1952. It maintained a minor presence in parliament until 1967.
Janata Party (1977–80)
In 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed a state of emergency. The Jana Sangh took part in the widespread protests, with thousands of its members being imprisoned along with other agitators across the country. In 1977, the emergency was withdrawn and general elections were held. The Jana Sangh merged with parties from across the political spectrum, including the Socialist Party, the Congress (O) and the Bharatiya Lok Dal to form the Janata Party, with its main agenda being defeating Indira Gandhi. The Janata Party won a majority in 1977 and formed a government with Morarji Desai as Prime Minister. The former Jana Sangh contributed the largest tally to the Janata Party’s parliamentary contingent, with 93 seats or 31% of its strength. Vajpayee, previously the leader of the Jana Sangh, was appointed the Minister of External Affairs.
Although the newly formed BJP was technically distinct from the Jana Sangh, the bulk of its rank and file were identical to its predecessor, with Vajpayee being its first president. Historian Ramachandra Guha writes that the early 1980s were marked by a wave of violence between Hindus and Muslims. The BJP initially moderated the Hindu nationalist stance of its predecessor the Jana Sangh to gain a wider appeal, emphasizing its links to the Janata Party and the ideology of Gandhian Socialism. This was unsuccessful, as it won only two Lok Sabha seats in the elections of 1984. The assassination of Indira Gandhi a few months earlier resulted in a wave of support for the Congress which won a record tally of 403 seats, contributing to the low number for the BJP. But the scenario changed in the years to come. The party came to the power thrice including its present rule winning the general elections of 2014 – in the year 1996 for thirteen days and again in the year 1998 for nearly thirteen months. The present strongest presence of the party owes its credit to Narendra Modi who proved to be the game changer on the political map of India with a landslide win in 2014 general polls becoming the fifteenth Prime Minister. In his leadership and guidance the BJP won 282 seats, leading the NDA to a tally of 336 seats in the 543-seat Lok Sabha. Another significant personality is there to whom the party owes its gratitude for reaching to the stalwart position of today’s BJP in Indian polity..and that personality is none other than Amit Shah who is BJP president other than being a Rajya Sabha MP today. winning four consecutive elections from Gujarat Assembly he closely assisted Narendra Modi during his Chief Minister tenure in Gujrat. Under his leadership, BJP achieved success in Legislative Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand and Assam in 2016, but lost the elections in Delhi and Bihar in 2015. In 2017, he led the party towards landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and marked the party’s strong debut in Manipur, but the Akali-BJP alliance lost power in Punjab. BJP also won 13 seats in Goa and now tactfully runs a coalition government with Manohar Parrikar as the CM for the 4th time. Hence a total number of seventeen states are being governed by the BJP which covers more than two third of the country and definitely the credit goes to the duo – Modi and Shah equally.