NEW DELHI, Dec. 7 -- Defeat in sport can become a habit. In the 1980s, most teams lost to the great West Indian side even before they reached the pitch out of sheer fright. India's World Cup 1983 winning captain Kapil Dev says that the first time he felt India could win the tournament was when they defeated the Windies in a preliminary game: "Until then, we just didn't believe we were good enough to beat them at a major one day tournament."

What is true of cricket is also perhaps the case with the intensely competitive world of politics: defeat almost becomes addictive, sapping self-belief and hope. In the past four years, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been a bit like the intimidating West Indian side, only this time it isn't a quar...