The BJP emerged as a political party in 1980 after the breakup of the Janata Party. It became a major political force to be reckoned with after its superb performance in 1996. Its significance rose widely after its successful five-year term under Atal Bihari Vaypayee. Its popularity rose on the back of the Ram Mandir dispute in the early ’90s. BJP has a Hindutva ideology and a right-wing approach which is criticised by many. In today’s turbulent times, BJP led NDA has emerged as the chief contender to make a government at the centre. What defines the BJP?
1. Narendra Modi :- Arguably, the most popular and favourable Prime Ministerial candidate that the country desires. His appeal may not be comparable to that of Vajpayee, however, his Gujarat report card is quite favourable. His humble origins and background work in his favour and his rallies have the ability of drawing a vast multitude.
2. Ideology :- The BJP’s ideology is more or less pro-Hindutva. It aims at building a Ram temple in Ayodhya which eats away quite a few of its Muslim vote. The BJP has put forward its demand for the abrogation of Article 370 which grants Jammu and Kashmir a special status. J&K has been and will remain an integral part of India and granting it special status defeats the sovereign nature of the constitution. BJP also aims at establishing a uniform civil code, not established by the Congress for appeasement of a Muslim vote bank.
3. Godhra, 2002 :- A chink in the armour of Narendra Modi and a thorn in the BJP’s side. Narendra Modi’s role in the pogrom is still argued although he has been given a clean chit. Of course he isn’t completely innocent, which is evident after the conviction of Maya Kodnani and his aide Amit Shah’s brief spell in jail. But, one of Modi’s plus points which get overlooked is that after 2002, there has never been an incident of rioting or hate crimes against any particular community, which were widespread in Gujarat in the ’90s.
4. Allies :- Compared to the Congress led UPA, BJP’s NDA has found it quite tough to garner all-weather allies. Its Hindutva ideology discourages regional parties to join it due to the fear of losing a Muslim vote bank. BJP may rack up opportunistic allies due to a favourable wave across the country. However, these allies may betray it for opportunistic gains elsewhere (Jayalalitha left the alliance in 1998, Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP after Godhra and recently Nitish Kumar’s JD(U)).
Even after all these considerations, the BJP still emerges as a front-runner in the race to win the elections. Its pro-development agenda, strong leadership and the Congress’ downfall have favoured the voters towards it. But can it convince the population of its newly adopted secular approach and inclusive growth agenda? Can the Muslims, a major vote bank, ever fall in line with Modi’s beliefs?