From just two seats in Lok Sabha in 1984 to winning two back-to-back majorities in general elections, the BJP with its right-wing Hindutva ideology has firmly taken the centre-stage of India’s political landscape, displacing the Congress.
With the Ram temple movement in the 1990s, its graph started rising but its influence remained largely restricted to Hindi heartland and the party emerged as the single largest party in 1996 under the leadership of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The party for the first time formed government in 1996 for 13 days and then for 13 months in 1998 when its government lost by a single vote in Lok Sabha.
It was Vajpayee’s pragmatic leadership which helped the party shed its “untouchable” tag as it forged new alliances and led the first non-Congress government which completed its five-year tenure.
It tasted stratospheric success with the emergence of Narendra Modi on national scene and the party won majority on its own for the first time in 2014 while expanding its footprint beyond Hindi heartland, especially in the Northeast region.
Few had imagined the BJP would be able to travel this far when it was founded on April 6, 1980. The party originated from Jan Sangh, which had merged with the Janata Party 1n 1977 but three years later splintered.
When the saffron party contested its first election in 1984, it won only two Lok Sabha seats. Following which, then party president LK Advani made Hindutva as the core ideology of the party and used the rhetoric of “pseudo secularism” and “Muslim appeasement” to great effect in winning popular support among the Hindus.
The hardline Hindutva politics, which was in line with its ideological parent RSS’s ideology, paid rich electoral dividends in the next general elections in 1989 when the BJP won 85 Lok Sabha seats. Following Advani’s ‘Ram Rath Yatra’ in 1990, the party grew in strength and in the 1991 general elections, it increased its strength to 120.
The party’s vote share went up to 20.1 per cent in 1991 from 11.4 per cent in 1989 and 7.4 per cent in 1984.
In the 1996 general elections, the BJP for the first time became the single largest party in Lok Sabha by winning 161 seats and staked claim to form the government.
The first ever BJP-led government, formed under the leadership of Vajpayee, lasted for only 13 days as it failed to attract allies to muster a majority.
In the next general polls in 1998, the BJP’s tally increased and it got 182 seats in the Lok Sabha and formed a coalition government called the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which lasted 13 months when it lost a no-confidence motion by a single vote.
A year later, the BJP came back to power as the NDA won 270 seats in the general elections on its own, with the party again getting 182 seats. And Vajpayee became prime minister for the third time.
This time BJP’s government lasted the full term until the next general polls in 2004, from where the BJP’s decline started as it lost two back-to-back general elections.
A change of fortunes happened in 2014 with the emergence of Narendra Modi on the national scene as the face of the saffron party and under his leadership, the BJP won 282 seats on its own. And this was perhaps the first in three-decades when any party had got a majority on its own.
Following the BJP’s massive victory and splendid performance in Uttar Pradesh, Amit Shah, who was in charge of the state, was rewarded with party’s top post.
With this change of ranks in the party’s leadership, a new era of Modi-Shah duo started which led to the party’s victory in various state assembly elections and the BJP was ruling the 18 states at one point of time.
The party, which is again all set to win, now occupies the centre-stage of Indian political landscape. With it being the strongest political entity in the country, the BJP has become the central focal point of Indian politics and become the common enemy of all the opposition parties.