The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) (translated into English as Indian People's Party) is one of the prominent political parties of India and the most significant member of the family of organizations collectively referred to as the 'Sangh Pariwar'. The party positions itself as a right-wing party with ideological links to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). As of August 2016, with Amit Shah being the party President, it has the largest representatives in the national Parliament as well as state assemblies making it the country's largest political party in terms of representation.
The party also has the largest number of primary members in the world. Formed officially in 1980, the party has it's roots with the Bharatiya Jana Sangh formed in 1951 by Shyama Prasad Mokerjee to fight the increasing political power of the Indian National Congress. The party also advocated the rebuilding of India in accordance with Hindu culture and opposed the Congress party's so called appeasement policy for Muslims. Jana Sangh's first major campaign was in the year 1953 which demanded the complete integration of Jammu and Kahmir with India. Mokerjee was arrested in May 1953 for entering Kashmir despite the state government restraining him from entering.
The Bharatiya Jana Sangh under the guidance of RSS started to gain its foothold but the party's political importance started to decline after the death of its founder Shyama Prasad Mokerjee. He died of a heart attack while he was in jail. Mauli Chandra Sharma succeeded Mookerjee but he was forced out of power by the RSS activist and then Upadhyay was chosen as the leader. Upadhyay remained the general secretary of the party until 1967.
After Upadhyay, Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the president in 1968. It was in 1968 when leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani took hold of the party and took the party forward. The Jana Sangha won only three Lok Sabha seats in the first contested Lok Sabha elections in 1952 and had only a minor presence in the Indian politics until 1967. Legislating uniform civil code, banning cow slaughter and abolishing the special status of Jammu and Kashmir were the major agendas of the party during this period. In the 1967 Lok Sabha elections, the party gained a substantial foothold in the Hindi speaking regions in North India and formed government in various states including Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
In 1975, Indira Gandhi government imposed Emergency on the country. Jana Sangh carried out a widespread protest and many of it's leaders were arrested. The emergency was called off in 1977 and the Lok Sabha elections were held. The Jan Sangh merged with three other political organizations and this coalition was called the Janata Party. The Janata Party won the election of 1977 under the leadership of Morarji Desai. However the party collapsed in 1979 due to the increasing political chaos.
In 1980 Bharatiya Janata Party was formed which included the members of the Janata Party as well as the RSS. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the first president of the BJP. The election symbol of the BJP from beginning and as approved by the Election Commission of India has been the Lotus. The 'Lotus' is the national flower of India and the BJP chose this symbol to represent that BJP is adherent to the cultural values of India. BJP won only two seats in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections. The failure of Vajpayee's strategy led the party to have a more hardline Hindu Nationalism policy. Advani was appointed as the president of the party in 1984 and under his leadership the movement of Ram Janmabhoomi began.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in the early 80's started the campaign for the construction of Ram temple at the site of Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. The VHP made the agitation that the mosque had been constructed by the Mughal emperor Babur in 1527 after demolishing the Rama temple . The BJP supported this campaign and also included this as an important part of the election campaign. This led to BJP winning 86 seats in 1989 which made them an important support of the V.P. Singh's National Front Government. In September 1990, Advani began his Rath Yatra to Ayodhya to support the Ram Temple Movement. A large number of 'kar sevaks' supported Advani and began to reach Ayodhya.
The then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav ordered to detain the 'kar sevaks' before they reach Ayodhya. Approximately 1,50,000 of the 'kar sevaks' were detained yet many of them reached Ayodhya and some attacked the mosque. This led to fight with the paramilitary forces and resulted in the death of several 'kar sevaks'. This led to riots in Uttar Pradesh. Soon after this, the BJP withdrew its support to the V.P. Singh Government and in the next general elections the seats of BJP rose to 120 seats in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly.BJP first came in power in 1996 but the government did not survive long resulting in midterm polls which were held in 1998.
The BJP contested the election by leading a coalition named National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which consisted of parties like Samata party, Shiromani Akali Dal, Shiv Sena and All India Anna Dravida Munetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). The NDA got a majority with the outside support from Telugu Desam Party (TDP). However, AIADMK withdrew its support and the coalition ruptured in May 1999 resulting to a fresh general elections. On October 13th 1999, the NDA without AIADMK won 303 seats and formed their government. BJP got their highest tally of 183 seats and Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the Prime Minister. This NDA government lasted for five years. The 2004 elections were called six months ahead by Vajpayee with the slogan of "India Shining". However NDA government suffered an unexpected defeat and NDA coalition was able to get only 186 seats as compared to the 222 seats won by congress and its allies.
In the 2009 general elections, its strength in the Lok Sabha was reduced to 116 seats. However in the 2014 elections, BJP won 282 seats and NDA in total won 336 out of the 543 Lok Sabha seats and Narendra Modi was sworn in as the 14th Prime Minister of the country. The vote share of BJP of all the votes cast was 31% and this was the first time since 1984 that a single party achieved full majority in the Indian Parliament. The BJP has a number of organizations to its credit which includes the BJP youth wing called Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha which has contributed to the students politics as well as the women wing of the BJP called BJP Mahila Morcha which claims to address a number of women's issues.