However, the Congress party, in a bid to appease minorities and tap their vote banks, had been giving preferential treatment to the community ever since independence. The Jana Sangh (and it’s subsequent re-incarnation BJP) were formed on the Hindutva movement which opposed this preferential treatment of Congress and insisted on having equal treatment to all, along with the demand for uniform civil code. It was not only the right-wing party which criticized Congress’ politics of appeasement but even eminent Congressmen were, and still are, pretty much vocal about it. The following excerpt from Shashi Tharoor’s book “Nehru: The invention of India” explains it pretty well.
In order to form a strong opposition to Indira Gandhi’s emergency, Bharatiya Jana Sangh merged with Janata Party in 1977 and after the collapse of the coalition in 1980, it was re-incarnated as “Bharatiya Janata Party” (BJP) at a time when the Congress party had already established itself as the undisputed national party with no significant rival. After the formation of BJP in 1980, the initial years were tough, with the party winning just 2 seats in the 1984 elections although it had 8% vote share (due to the strong sympathy wave resulting from Indira Gandhi’s assasination which filliped the electorate, BJP was not able to convert vote share into seats). Over the next few years, BJP struggled to strike a chord with the masses.
In mid 1980s, after Rajiv Gandhi came to power, some of his actions indeed helped the struggling BJP (still in infancy stage) get its first big break. 1986 was a landmark year in the history of India due to the communal politics played by Rajiv Gandhi which helped BJP take off.
A 62 year old divorced woman named Shah Bano was entitled for alimony (maintenance money) as per Indian law from her ex-husband, but it was denied to her because being from the Muslim community which followed its own personal law, it did not have such provision of alimony for a divorced woman.
In 1985, Rajiv had been ideating over producing TV serials (to be broadcast over Doordharshan) which could depict values of Ramayana & Mahabharata. Rajiv Gandhi himself discussed these in person with the concerned authorities who in turn ordered the Director General of Doordarshan to take it up on priority (because it was very rare for a PM to discuss such initiatives related to TV serials and hence this was a great opportunity for Doordarshan to show their skills & obedience to the PM). This has been explained in great detail in the autobiography of Bhaskar Ghose who was the Director General of Doordarshan during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure.