In November 1961, Seretse Khama and other delegates to the African Advisory Council founded the party in Lobatse. Within the next few months Masire and Khama drafted a party constitution, and then held the party's first public meeting in Gaborone on the 28th of February, 1962. Following the meeting the BDP was organized in the northern sections of the country by Seretse Khama, Amos Dambe, Archelaus Tsoebebe and James Haskins. The southern and western regions were primarily organized by the party secretary, Quett Masire. Masire also began publishing the party newspaper, Therisanyo/Consultation, in 1963, building on his past journalistic experiences. As a result of effective propaganda and organizing across the entire country, the BDP won a landslide in the 1965 election, taking 28 out of 31 seats. During the run-up to independence in 1966, Khama and Masire formed a formidable leadership team. Not only did they agree on major policy decisions, but they also identified and recruited talent into the party and government.
With Seretse Khama as President and Quett Masire as vice-president, Botswana prospered. Rapid economic growth and a peaceful, democratic society were the result.
For the next three decades, the BDP dominated the National Assembly, facing at most nine opposition MPs. Khama died in 1980, and was succeeded by his vice president, Quett Masire. His last term saw the BDP's dominance challenged for the first time, with opposition candidates winning 17 out of 44 seats.
Festus Mogae served as the country's president between 1998 and 2008. He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on 20 March 2008 for his "exemplary leadership" in making Botswana a "model" of democracy and good governance. Mogae won the 2008 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.
Prior to the introduction of primary elections in 1998, the BDP leadership maintained a tight control over candidate selection and party financing. Since then, the primary system (known as "buleladitswe") combined with ongoing factional strife, has led to a loss of overall cohesion and increased competition for positions. Some, such as party founder Quett Masire, deplored this new development and believed that it had corrupted the party. Others have maintained that it modernized the party and brought in new political voices that could broaden its appeal in urban constituencies.
Ian Khama, the son of former president Sir Seretse Khama, joined to the party ahead of the 1999 general elections. Currently the party is ridden by factions and observers predict that unless discipline is instilled, the party will split. One faction (calling itself Barata-Phathi) is led by Ponatshego Kedikilwe, and former Secretary General Daniel Kwelagobe, while the dominant faction (calling itself The A Team) is led by cabinet ministers Jacob Nkate and Mompati Merafhe. The A Team was formerly led by President Festus Mogae and his Vice-President Ian Khama. Both of them have since pulled out from leading factions even though they are still members of 'The A Team'.
On the first of April 2008, Ian Khama ascended to the presidency as the fourth President of the Republic of Botswana, as a result relinquishing his chairmanship of the Botswana Democratic Party. The vacant post was then undertaken by party stalwart and veteran Daniel Kwelagobe. Despite this development, Ian Khama moved to sideline Kwelagobe and other "Baratha-Phathi" factionalists in the government. In his inauguration address, Ian Khama outlined the National Vision 2016.
In May 2010, the BDP split, with the Botswana Movement for Democracy formed, led by Botsalo Ntuane and the other Parliament ministers who opposed President Khama's political decisions.
The 2014 election resulted in the BDP taking 37 parliamentary seats, a decreased margin from the previous election in 2009, but still a majority in the 63-seat chamber. As a result, President Khama retained his position as president for a second five-year term.