Bharatiya Janata Party
   (BJP)
   The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Peoples Party of India, is one of the largest political parties in India, serving as the governing party on the state and fed-eral levels at various times in recent years.The BJP is the political wing of the old RASH-TRIYA SVAYA M SEVAK SANGH (RSS), the National Organization for Self-help. It was formed as a separate party in 1980 after internal differences within the Janata Party resulted in the collapse of its government in 1979. BJP held the prime min-istership of India from 1998 to 2004 under the leadership of Atal Bihari Bajpayee. In 2004 it was defeated in parliamentary elections by a coalition led by the Congress Party.
   The Bharata Janata Party considers itself to be a party of HINDU NATIONALISM; its ideology is called Hindutva, defined not in terms of the Hindu religion but as Indianness. The party points to the original meaning of the word Hindu, coined by Arab conquerors to refer to all the people living in India. However, critics have labeled the BJP a Hindu fundamentalist or even a Hindu fascist party.The BJP rose to prominence during the tur-moil surrounding the Babri Masjid Mosque in the Uttar Pradesh city of AYODHYA. This mosque was built in 1528 C.E. on a site claimed to be the birthplace of RAMA, an AVATA R of Visnu. During the 1940s RSS members erected an image of Rama in the mosque, and the government later sealed off the mosque. During the 1980s the RSS began staging violent protests against its very existence. Lal Krishnan Advani, the leader of the BJP and a leader in the VISHVA HINDU PARISHAD (World Hindu Council), was indicted on several occa-sions for leading the protests. This mosque was destroyed in 1992 by RSS activists, prompting nationwide riots that killed 3,000 people.
   In 2006 BJP was voted out of office to a great extent because of the Gujarat violence of 2003, when 3,000 Muslims were killed, for which the BJP chief minister, Narendra Modi, was held responsible.
   Further reading: Gwilym Beckerlegge and Anthony Copley, eds. Saffron and Seva (Hinduism in Public and Private) (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); Chetan Bhat, Hindu Nationalism: Origins, Ideologies, and Modern Myths (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Blom Thomas Hanson. The Saffron Way: Democracy and Nationalism in Modern India. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999); Martin E. Mary and R. Scott Appleby, eds., Religion, Ethnicity, and Self Identity: Nations in Turmoil (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1997); Peter van der Veer, Religious Nationalism, Hindus and Muslims in India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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