Bharatiya Janata Party - History


See also: Bharatiya Jana Sangh

The Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) was founded by Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee in 1951 to espouse the nationalist cause. The party opposed the appeasement policy of the Indian National Congress and was against any compromise in the matters of national integrity, unity and cultural identity. It was widely regarded as the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. After Mookerjee's untimely death in prison in 1953, during an agitation demanding the effective integration of Jammu and Kashmir into India, the entire burden of nurturing the orphaned organization and building it up as a nation-wide movement fell on the young shoulders of Deendayal Upadhyaya. For 15 years, he remained the outfit's general secretary and built it up. He raised a band of dedicated workers imbued with idealism and provided the entire ideological framework of the party. He groomed future political leaders like Vajpayee, Advani and others. However, the vast majority of the party workers, including Upadhyaya himself were derived from the RSS and brought with them the patriotic fervour and discipline of the parent organization

The Jana Sangh won just three Lok Sabha seats in the first general elections in 1952. However, it gradually increased its strength and by 1962 had become one of the most effective opposition parties in India and seriously challenged the power of the Congress in various north Indian states. Uniform Civil code for all Indians, Ban on cow slaughter, Scrapping of the special statues accorded to J&K, Promotion of Hindi were some of the major ideological issues taken up by the party.

After 1967, The party entered into coalition with like-minded political parties and formed governments in various states such as Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and others. The party was in the forefront during the agitation against the emergency (1975–77) imposed by the Indira Gandhi regime and thousands of its leaders and workers were imprisoned across India. The party along with many other political parties merged with the Janata Party in 1977 to present a united opposition to the Congress. The Janata Party won with a huge majority in 1977 and formed the government with Morarji Desai as Prime Minister. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had become the leader of the Jana Sangh after Upadhyaya's death in 1967, was appointed as the external affairs minister in the new government. The Janata government did not last long. Morarji Desai resigned as Prime Minister, and the Janata party was dissolved soon after. The BJS had devoted its political organization to sustain the coalition and was left exhausted by the internecine wars within the Janata Party.

In 1980, the leaders and workers who were associated with the former Bharatiya Jana Sangh, founded the Bharatiya Janata Party with Vajpayee as its first President. The BJP was a strong critic of the Congress government, and while it opposed the Sikh militancy that was rising in the state of Punjab, it also blamed Indira Gandhi for divisive and corrupt politics that fostered the militancy at national expense. Sikh Leader Darasingh opines that Vajpayee thus "brought in Hindu-Sikh harmony."

The BJP never supported Operation Bluestar, the BJP strongly protested the violence against Sikhs in Delhi that broke out in 1984, following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by one of her Sikh bodyguards. The BJP was left with only two parliamentary seats in the 1984 elections; the party, however, had established itself in the mainstream of Indian politics, and soon began expanding its organization to attract young Indians throughout the country. During this period, Vajpayee remained center-stage as party President and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, but increasingly hard-line Hindu nationalists began to rise within the party and define its politics.

The BJP became the political voice of the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir Movement, which was led by activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the RSS, and was seeking to build a temple dedicated to Lord Rama in place of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya. Hindus believed the site was the birthplace of the Lord, and there existed a temple long before the Babri mosque was built after demolishing the temple by Babar, and thus qualified as one of the most sacred sites of Hinduism, where a temple should be reconstructed. The party under its President Lal Krishna Advani galvanized the nation with various rath yatras and succeeded in awakening the Hindu identity.

On 6 December 1992, hundreds of VHP and BJP activists broke down an organized protest into a frenzied attack, and razed the mosque. Over the following weeks, waves of violence between Hindus and Muslims erupted in various parts of the country, killing over 1000 people. The VHP was banned by the government, and many BJP leaders, including L.K. Advani were arrested briefly for provoking the destruction. Although widely condemned by many across the country for playing politics with sensitive issues, the BJP won the support of millions of conservative Hindus, as well as national prominence.

Victory in assembly elections of Delhi in 1993 and Gujarat and Maharashtra in March 1995, and a good performance in the elections to the Karnataka assembly in December 1994, propelled the BJP to the centerstage. During the BJP session at Mumbai in November 1995, BJP President L.K. Advani declared that Vajpayee would be the Prime Minister of India if the BJP won the next parliamentary elections scheduled for May 1996. In that election, the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha and Vajpayee became Prime minister. He, however had to resign within 13 days as the BJP was unable to muster the required majority.

In the Lok Sabha elections held in 1998 the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) obtained a simple majority. This time, the BJP (NDA) had allied with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Biju Janata Dal besides its existing allies, the Samata Party, the Shiromani Akali Dal and Shiv Sena. Outside support was provided by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). The NDA had a slim majority, and Vajpayee returned as Prime Minister after the 13-day stint in 1996. But the coalition ruptured in May 1999 when the leader of AIADMK, Jayalalitha, withdrew her support, and fresh elections were again held.

On 13 October 1999, the BJP-led NDA riding on a wave of popularity, following victory in the Kargil war and the charisma of Vajpayee, won 303 seats. The BJP alone had its highest ever tally of 183. Vajpayee became Prime Minister for the third time, and Advani became the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister. This NDA government lasted its full term of five years. Vajpayee and his economic team, led by Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, continuing the policies initiated by the previous Congress government under P. V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh, pushed through major privatizations of big government corporations, the liberalization of trade under World Trade Organization guidelines, airline deregulation, foreign investment and ownership and allowed private companies such as Mahindra World City and Reliance to build Special Economic Zones where property developers could build new cities with world-class infrastructure for factories that export products.

The BJP and the NDA suffered an unexpected defeat in the general elections in 2004, and failed to muster a parliamentary majority. Manmohan Singh of the Congress Party and United Progressive Alliance succeeded Vajpayee as Prime Minister.

In May 2008, the BJP won the state elections in Karnataka. This was the first time that the party had won Assembly elections in any south Indian state. In the 2009 general elections, BJP again faced defeat and its strength in Lok Sabha reduced to 116 seats. The unexpected defeat of BJP is attributed to bad performance of the party in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Andhra Pradesh.

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