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From the underdog to the big dog: the rise of BJP

On 6th April 1980, when the Bharatiya Janata Party was founded under Mr. LK Advani and Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, no one (barring a few) would have expected it to overthrow the reigning Indian National Congress government. After all, the INC dominated the Indian political arena since independence and lost only once during the 1977 Indian general elections, and it came back to power in 1980 significantly after. To beat the INC in the Indian general elections seemed one of the far fetched dreams at that time— until the mid 1990s, during which the party was plagued in terms of its reputation. Charges of corruption over then PM and party leader Mr. PV Narasimha Rao, resignation of several cabinet ministers mid-term, numerous splits, and other infamous scandals caused the support for the party to decrease.

In 1988, BJP founded the National Democratic Alliance (NDA): a large political tent with similar “rightist” ideologies, united by the notion of dethroning the INC. The alliance soon emerged to be the largest competitor for the INC-led UPA (United Progressive Alliance), taking advantage of the damaging blows the party underwent in the eyes of the public.

The 1996 elections saw the BJP form a short tenure at the realm of the nation (only 13 days), after the NDA failed to prove its majority at the Lok Sabha and Mr. Atal Bihari Bajpayee resigned his PM post— often known as a “hung parliament”. This was perhaps the closest the BJP came to actually winning the elections, and such moments do bless parties with confidence. The 1998 elections again resulted in no party clearly establishing a majority, however, BJP leader Bajpayee was quick enough to form a coalition and prove his majority. Soon after in 1999, another chaos struck in form of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) led by Jayalalitha, withdrawing from the NDA coalition, due to uncontainable ideological differences and the ignorance of several Tamil demands, resulting in fresh elections the same year.

It was finally in this election (1999), when the BJP struck gold and held it. The NDA won the general elections with a clear majority (the first time after more than a decade of coalition governments), and the INC registered its lowest seat count in nearly 50 years. Atal Bihari Bajpayee became the PM and held office till his tenure ended in 2004. This election underlined the entrance of the BJP-led NDA to Indian politics, and the party never looked out of the race from here. After losing the 2004 and the 2009 elections, the party came back strongly in the 2014 general election and Mr Narendra Modi was sworn-in as the 14th PM of India.

The current BJP government, ruling for almost 8 years now, has invited critics as well as supporters alike (like every government throughout history). The most significant change brought out during the rule could be narrowed down to “the 2016 banknote demonetisation Act”, which aimed at the abolition of “black money”. The party’s handling of the recent pandemic has also been fairly positive: characterised by the patient lockdowns, timely travel restrictions, and the ongoing aggressive vaccine campaign. These regulations have provided a huge sigh of relief and really helped the government to bounce back from the negative economy. These meticulous strategies combined with professional diplomacy has plummeted the BJP to the top.

Though the Government has been under more criticism recently by the opposition on matters such as the currency inflation, unemployment etc. but the ruling party does well with such negativity. With less than 2 years for the next general elections, the government has geared up its policies and is now focusing more on crop diversification (which would help boost the agriculture sector), employment generation etc. Furthermore, Draupadi Murmu becoming the 15th president of India, and the first from a tribal community adds yet another feather to the party’s cap. Moreover, the government’s new scheme “Agnipath” aims to provide jobs for youth in the armed forces, which eventually helps promote the armed forces as a potential job opportunity.

BJP’s “back foot” attitude, towards its much opposed centralised ideology of “Hindutva” and the promotion of Hindi, could be what it requires to get the majority in Lok Sabha once again and the party may retain its position and complete its “hat-trick”! Certainly, the BJP is on the rise!

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