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16th loss for Congress since 2004
Krishna Kumar P in New Delhi
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May 25, 2008
The defeat in Karnataka is the Congress party's 16th loss in the four years since it returned to power at the Centre. India has seen 25 assembly elections since 2004, including four states that went to the polls along with that year's general election.

The Congress party has won eight of those elections and lost 16.

Three of its victories came in the year of the general election. Of the five remaining wins, three -- Pondicherry, Manipur and Goa [Images] -- are small states. The only big electoral gains for the Congress since 2005 are in Haryana and Assam.

Its record gets worse as the years pass. It was 3-3 in 2004; 1-2 in 2005; 2-2 in 2006; 2-4 in 2007 and 0-4 in 2008 so far. With three large states -- Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, all ruled by the BJP -- going to the polls later this year the Congress has some real hard work to do if it is to reverse its losing trend.

A glance at the party's performance in the past four years:

Four states -- Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa and Sikkim -- went to the polls simultaneously with the 2004 general election.

The Congress swept back to power in Andhra Pradesh.

The BJP emerged as the single largest party in Karnataka in what was seen as a vote against the S M Krishna government. The Biju Janata Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance regained power in Orissa and the Sikkim Democratic Front swamped the Congress 31-1. Elections to two states -- Arunachal Pradesh and Maharashtra -- were held in September-October 2004. The Congress ensured that the afterglow of the general election win was intact by winning in Arunachal and forming one part of the winning alliance in Maharashtra with the Nationalist Congress Party.

In 2005 the Congress won Haryana, ousting the BJP. But two other states that went to the polls saw politics in India touch seemingly impossible lows. Jharkhand and Bihar threw up hung assemblies. While Ram Vilas Paswan's stubbornness ensured Bihar went to the polls again towards the end of the year, Jharkhand was the stage for an elaborate farce as both the BJP and Congress wrestled for power. The BJP came out trumps in the battle of below-the-belt blows.

It was 2006 and two years into the UPA's term. The year saw five states -- including the likes of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal and Kerala [Images] -- going to the polls. This battle spread across five states generated considerable interest as the Congress and its central ally the Left Front were going up against each other in Bengal and Kerala. Kerala and Bengal saw the Left handing the Congress its first big losses since coming back to power at the Centre. In Tamil Nadu, Congress ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham, salvaged some pride by riding on a cleverly-drafted populist manifesto. The Congress retained Assam and tiny Pondicherry.

By 2007, the Congress was fast losing ground across the country. The party had seven chances to redeem itself and pull itself out of the mid-term rut that it found itself at the Centre. Over to Punjab, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, with the Congress defending the first four and hoping to revive its lost legacy in Uttar Pradesh, where it also tested the charm of Rahul Gandhi [Images].

When it sat down with its balance sheets at the end of 2007, the Congress ledger read 2-2. Though the score line seems respectable, it was the big states of Uttarakhand and Punjab that it had lost and retained Manipur and the farcical mess called Goa.

Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party trampled both BJP and the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, and while it did marginally better than the riot-clouded 2002 assembly election in Gujarat, there was no denying that Narendra Modi [Images] walked all over the Congress in 2007. The BJP won in Himachal, too. It was around this time that the BJP was seen to be recovering its bearings and the Congress was clearly down in the dumps when it came to state electoral politics.

In early 2008, three northeastern states were up for grabs. The Left retained Tripura and the Congress was done in by umbrella alliances in both Meghalaya and Nagaland. It was because of this continuous run of defeats in reasonably big states that Karnataka held considerable importance for the Congress. A second defeat in four years in the same state rounds off a full circle for the Congress in the southern state, leaving it with just about a year to get its act right before the next general election.

The Congress report card:

2004: Won: Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra.
Lost: Karnataka, Orissa, Sikkim

2005: Won: Haryana.
Lost: Jharkhand, Bihar

2006: Won: Assam, Pondicherry: Congress retains power.
Lost: Bengal, Kerala In Tamil Nadu, the party is a minor ally of the winning DMK.

2007:: Won: Manipur, Goa
Lost: Punjab, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat

2008: Won: None
Lost: Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Karnataka

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