It ruled Bihar for some four decades. Although the Congress has been a declining force in recent decades, its humiliating rout in assembly elections Wednesday is the worst drubbing it has ever suffered.
A party, which parachuted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress stars Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in the Bihar election campaign, ended up with just five seats -- less than even the paltry nine it won in 2005.
Political analyst G V L Narasimha Rao attributed the Congress rout mainly to the Nitish Kumar wave that also crushed the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad.
"The Congress usually has a eight-10 percent traditional vote bank," Rao told IANS. "This gets combined with the votes a candidate may get based on his caste or influence in the area."
Thus, Rao said, the party had been winning eight-10 seats in recent times.
This time, because of the Nitish wave, the importance of caste and individual got negated.
The central leadership could pull only 10-12% votes which was not enough to win, he said.
And then the Congress chose wrong candidates. "They picked candidates who were not even from the constituencies. A lot of non-resident Biharis were given ticket, so people had no affinity with them," said Rao.
Congress leaders were disheartened.
“It is discouraging, looks like the party will have to do a lot of work to regain lost ground,” a party member from Bihar said.
In 1985, when the party won with 196 seats, the Congress got nearly 39% of the votes. The number of seats came down to 71 in 1990 when RJD won the elections. This slipped to 29 in 1995.
In the 2000 elections, the party still got 23 seats. This fell to 10 in 2005 and to nine in the November 2005 polls.
“We accept the mandate of the people of Bihar, the party will recreate itself in the state,” he added.