Seretse Khama founded the party. Before independence was achieved in 1966, BDP was known as the Bechuanaland Democratic Party. On 30 September 1966, Khama's vision of independence became true. In the first general elections in 1965, BDP candidates won 28 of 31 seats. Khama became the president of Botswana.
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.
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. 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.
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.