FROM just two seats in Lok Sabha in 1984 to winning two back-to-back majority in general elections, 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 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 Behari 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 BJP contested its first election in 1984, it won only two Lok Sabha seats. Following which, then party president L K 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.