Asserting that the Bharatiya Janata Party's alliance with the Shiv Sena is firmly in place, senior party leader Gopinath Munde on Saturday said that the saffron combine cannot accommodate a third partner.
Addressing a press conference after inducting former Congress Member of Legislative Assembly Nana Patole into the party fold, Munde who has been made in-charge of the BJP for the upcoming assembly elections, said there will be no change in the seat sharing formula of Shiv Sena and BJP.
"BJP would contest 117 seats and Shiv Sena will field candidates in 171 assembly constituencies out of the total 288 seats," he said, adding that the final list of constituencies which both the parties will contest will be announced in 8 to 10 days. The BJP Member of Parliament from Beed scotched speculations that his party was trying to bring about a patch up between the MNS and Shiv Sena.
"That is not our job and there was no proposal from us or the Shiv Sena as well as the MNS for a patch up. MNS benefited only the Congress and not the Marathi speaking people. Those who voted for MNS are not traditional Congress voters. They will now understand that their support to the MNS was in fact helping the Congress. They will not repeat the same mistake in the assembly elections," Munde said.
Munde accused the Congress of using Dalit leaders for electoral purposes and discarding them later. He said Dalits have sincerely supported Congress to keep the Shiv Sena-BJP away from power. But the Congress ensured the defeat of Dalit leaders and never gave them a share in decision making, he alleged.
"There is large-scale anger among Dalits over this apathy. If Dalit leaders wish to support Shiv Sena-BJP, we too will extend a hand of friendship," he said. Munde said the Congress cannot hope to achieve the same feat of bagging more seats than the saffron combine, as in the Lok Sabha elections, with the help of the MNS.
When asked about the meeting of former chief ministers and known detractors Vilasrao Deshmukh and Narayan Rane in Delhi, Munde said the coming together of these two leaders or an alliance between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party cannot prevent the Shiv Sena-BJP from coming back to power in the state.
Patole, former Congress MLA from Sakoli in Vidarbha who lost to NCP leader Praful Patel from Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha seat as an independent, said he quit Congress to protest against its anti-farmer and anti-Vidarbha policies.
He has now been appointed as BJP secretary in charge of Bhandara, Gondia, Chandrapur and Gadchiroli districts of East Vidarbha. Party state president Nitin Gadkari said BJP has accepted Patole's demand for a separate ministry for the welfare of Other Backward Castes and nomadic tribes if the saffron combine comes to power.