On the eve of the launch of his mass outreach programme aimed at building momentum ahead of the assembly elections, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday reiterated the BJP and the Shiv Sena would contest together unlike 2014.
Speaking at a function after inducting four MLAs of the Congress and the NCP into the BJP, the chief minister said the BJP, the Sena and allied parties would like to "break the record of winning the maximum number of seats in the state polls".
Fadnavis' statement has put to rest the rumours, at least for now, that the saffron allies might contest separately to accommodate turncoats of the Congress and the NCP.
The Sharad Pawar-led NCP has witnessed a string of desertions in the recent past.
On Tuesday, three MLAs of the NCP and one of the Congress resigned from the state Legislative Assembly.
They joined the BJP in the presence of the chief minister and state BJP president Chandrakant Patil on Wednesday morning.
The three NCP MLAs who switched their loyalties are Shivendraraje Bhosale from Satara, Sandeep Naik from Airoli in Navi Mumbai, and Vaibhav Pichad from Akole in Ahmednagar district. The lone Congress MLA is Kalidas Kolambkar from Wadala in Mumbai.
"The BJP, the Shiv Sena and allied parties will contest the assembly elections jointly. We want to break the record of winning the maximum number of seats in Maharashtra," the chief minister said.
Pointing out the likely discord over sharing of seats, a BJP leader said Vaibhav and Kolambkar have been generally contesting against opponents from the Sena from their respective constituencies of Akole and Wadala.
"As they have joined the BJP, the party will most likely field them from their respective constituencies in the assembly polls. A million-dollar question is will the Shiv Sena be ready to share those seats with the BJP?" he said.
Fadnavis is embarking on a month-long 'Mahajanadesh Yatra' beginning from Amravati district in east Maharashtra on Thursday. The yatra will culminate in Nashik in north Maharashtra on August 31.
The saffron alliance in Maharashtra has survived various vicissitudes in the past.
The BJP and the Shiv Sena had contested the 2014 elections separately but joined hands later to form a BJP-led government.In the keenly-fought polls, the BJP had won 122 out of total 288 seats and the Shiv Sena 63. The Congress and the NCP had won 42 and 41 seats, respectively.