As allies Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena continue to jockey for power, the BJP’s losses in western Maharashtra, especially Kolhapur, is emblematic of the fissures within their fragile ideological alliance.With Sena MP Sanjay Mandlik supporting the Congress in Kolhapur, the latter, in coalition with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has performed surprisingly well in the ‘sugar-belt’ district while the BJP’s presence has been wiped out, with two of its sitting MLAs suffering defeats.The Congress-NCP alliance won six of the 10 Assembly segments in Kolhapur, with the Congress winning four crucial seats. The Sena could win only one (Shahuwadi segment) while the rest were won by ex-Congressmen like Prakash Awade (Ichalkaranji seat) and other candidates who contested as Independents.Earlier this week, BJP State chief Chandrakant Patil had openly blamed Mr. Mandlik for being responsible for the BJP’s defeat in the district.While stressing that the BJP and the Sena would eventually form a government despite some confusion, Mr. Patil reprimanded the Sena MP and other rebels within the party for their ‘opportunist politics’.In order to settle scores with the Mahadik clan, the Sena’s Mr. Mandlik had campaigned wholeheartedly for the Congress’s Ruturaj Patil — nephew of senior Kolhapur Congress leader Satej ‘Bunty’ Patil — in the Kolhapur South Assembly. This had directly contributed to the defeat of the BJP candidate — erstwhile sitting MLA Amal Mahadik.“From the first day, Sanjay Mandlik has been openly saying that Congressman Satej ‘Bunty’ Patil has helped me and I have to pay back his debt,” he said, questioning the Sena’s MP conduct against the BJP.He further alleged that Mr. Mandlik had actively campaigned and backed his relative, Rajesh Patil, the Congress candidate in the Chandgad seat and veteran NCP leader Hasan Mushrif in the Kagal Assembly segment.Against this backdrop of the fraught Sena-BJP relations, the Congress leadership in western Maharashtra and Pune is hoping to take a leaf from their strategy in Kolhapur and exploit divisions within the Sena and the BJP in the future.“We had laid the ground in Kolhapur before the Lok Sabha polls. Satej Patil conducted a shrewd campaign which not only took maximum advantage of the fractiousness between the saffron allies but also successfully propagated the Congress’ alternatives to the BJP-Sena government’s failures in the region,” said Pune City Congress secretary and spokesman Ramesh Iyer.Stating that the party was in the second place on at least 14-15 Assembly seats in western Maharashtra, he conceded that the leadership crises prevailing within the Congress at the Central and State levels had hamstrung its advantages despite the electorate being disposed against the BJP and the Sena.“There was no support or moral boost for the party in the form of ‘star campaigners’. If we are to take lessons from our success in Kolhapur, we need a senior leader in every district like Satej Patil with good resources with the ability to campaign aggressively,” Mr. Iyer said.He said that the party would be mulling over this strategy in the crucial civic polls in Pune, Satara and Solapur that would be taking place in 2022.A senior Congress leader, requesting anonymity, said that in the Assembly election, the grassroots-level worker, without any support from the top, had gone out of the way to revive the party’s sagging fortunes.“In every Assembly segment, the workers did not wait for any leader and took their own initiative to highlight local issues and problems in that constituency and the Congress alternatives to that,” he said, observing that in Sangli, Kolhapur and the Vidarbha region, the Congress gained more seats by stressing the lack of compensation to farmers as promised by the BJP-Sena government and the prevailing unemployment.Commenting on the narrow losses for the Congress in the Shivajinagar and Pune Cantonment seats in Pune city, yet another Congress leader said that a hard-driving campaign by party workers coupled with covert support from a disgruntled Sena led the Congress candidates to put up formidable contests against their BJP opponents.“After 2014, the BJP has ensured that the Sena doesn’t gain an upper hand in Pune. The Sena’s leadership is worried about the party’s future and the lack of morale within its workers. This prevailing discontent indirectly benefited the Congress-NCP in some parts,” said a city-based analyst.