BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY (BJP) The Bharatiya Janata Party, founded 1980, first came to power in India following the national elections held in May 1996 However, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee resigned less than two weeks later when he was unable to win the vote of confidence in the lower house, the Lok Sabha The BJP had campaigned for election by emphasizing a combination of Indian nationalism and the revival of Hinduism It promised a hard look at the arrival of all foreign capital into India It promised to cultivate what it described as Hindutva, a kind of all-embracing Hindu-based culture to which all Indians, no matter what their religion, would be required to subscribe It also advocated an uncompromising stance toward Pakistan It was reasonable for Pakistan to worry about the ascent of the BJP The BJP had links with a well-armed Hindu militia that had torn down a 16th century mosque at Ayodhya in 1992, sparking riots that left thousands dead, mostly Muslims The BJP used the Ayodhya incident and its promise to construct a Hindu temple on the site of the mosque to its electoral advantage Although the promise of Hindu revivalism in India was of concern to Pakistan, the Pakistani leaders were equally disturbed by another position taken by the BJP

It had been pushing the Indian leaders to openly develop nuclear arms and to use them, if the need arose, against Pakistan The BJP was returned to power in March 1998, following a hardfought campaign in India’s twelfth elections The party renewed its previous promises; this time it also promised to remove the legislation that allowed Indian Muslims a separate status in that they could follow their own religion on matters pertaining to marriage and family formation The party also pledged to force Pakistan out of Azad Kashmir After having secured a more comfortable position in the Lok Sabha and having also persuaded a dozen or so small regional parties to join hands with it, the BJP was able to form a government in New Delhi and win the vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha Once again the BJP chose Atal Bihari Vajpayee to lead the government as prime minister The prime minister, a moderate, had to deal with such hardliners as L K Advani From Pakistan’s perspective it was troubling that Advani was assigned the responsibility for Kashmir affairs On 11 May 1998, the government of India surprised an unsuspecting world by exploding three nuclear devices at a site close to Pakistan

The Indian action was widely condemned by the world, but this reaction did not stop the BJP from ordering two more tests two days later at the same site Pakistan was aghast at this turn of events It did not follow immediately with nuclear tests of its own, hoping that the Western countries would impose severe sanctions on India This did not happen at the G8 summit of the eight leading industrial countries, held in Birmingham, England, on 16-17 May On 18 May, a week after the nuclear tests, L K Advani, the Indian Home Minister, issued a stern warning to Pakistan concerning Kashmir, indicating that India would not tolerate any Pakistani opposition to its rule over the state On 28 May, Pakistan responded to the Indian initiative by exploding five nuclear bombs of its own, and followed up with another test two days later On 18 April 1999, the BJP government lost a vote of confidence in the parliament Prime Minister Vajpayee resigned immediately following the defeat in the legislature and called another general election, in which the BJP re-emerged once again as the single largest party This time, Vajpayee was able to put together a more durable coalition

It was during this term that India and Pakistan almost went to war over the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir The war was averted after General Pervez Musharraf promised to stop cross-border movement of Islamic fighters from the Pakistaniheld Kashmir to that part of the state under Indian control In April 2003, Vajpayee surprised the world-and also Pakistan-by extending the hand of friendship to his neighbor This offer was followed by a gradual easing of tension between Pakistan and India In 2004, confident that his party’s slogan of “India shining” would bring it back to power, Vajpayee called another election The Indian electorate surprised him-and the BJP-by voting in the Congress Party and its allies The Congress-led coalition came to power under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Vajpayee resigned as the party’s president following the defeat in the elections He was replaced by Advani

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