The NCP is not used to losing. And yet, in the short space of six months, it finds itself out of a job following successive drubbings at the Centre and state levels.
In a rude awakening, its leaders will have to learn to survive without power and reclaim their relevance, or at least figure out how to try.
Already, the party has taken a step in this direction by offering outside support to the BJP, which is 23 seats shy of an absolute majority.
The NCP, with its tally of 41, could fill that gap, but its tally is good for little else this time around.
It has been, after all, the Nationalist Congress Party’s worst performance in its 15-year history.
If the BJP politely declines its help and opts to reunite with the Shiv Sena instead, the NCP could face half a decade of relative irrelevance.
In a political entity of heavyweights used to ruling everything from municipal corporations to central governments, this could lead to infighting, more defections and further erosion of the ranks.
Already, infighting and discontent have contributed to its losses at the state level.
The unceremonious expulsion of Chhagan Bhujbal from the post of deputy chief ministers in 2010 saw him turn on his replacement, Ajit Pawar, openly projecting party chief Sharad Pawar, Ajit’s conflicted uncle, for chief ministership in campaign rallies this election.
Similar discontent has been the theme of key portfolio allocations, election tickets and organisational roles.
Here again, providing external support to a BJP government could help, at least in terms of stemming any further flow of NCP leaders to that party.
Meanwhile, whether or not it finds a role for itself in the next government, some spring cleaning will certainly be in order.
The NCP has seen its image tarnished by a range of scams and alleged financial irregularities that originated in government departments controlled by senior party leaders.
It has failed to project a face that the common man can identify with or consider its own.
Tussles over dynastic legacies have damaged its image too, and caused unrest among party workers.
It is time, clearly, for some stock-taking. It’s never easy to take on the man in the mirror, but sometimes, it’s the only thing left to do.