Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde announced on Wednesday that the `Mahayuti` (grand alliance) will shift its focus towards winning 45 out of the total 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state during the upcoming general elections.

The Mahayuti coalition comprises the ruling BJP, Shiv Sena led by CM Shinde, and NCP (Ajit Pawar faction).

In a bid to criticize Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray`s outreach to socialist parties, Shinde expressed his concerns, suggesting that joining forces with socialist leaders amounts to a dilution of Hindutva ideology.

Thackeray, while addressing leaders of 21 socialist parties in the state, claimed that their differences were primarily ideological, which could be resolved for the greater cause of democracy. He also emphasized that many of these leaders may be Muslims, but they are nationalists committed to safeguarding the country`s democracy.

CM Shinde made these statements while interacting with reporters during a visit to a Navaratri program in Thane city shortly after midnight on Wednesday.

When questioned about the disqualification petitions filed against him and other Shiv Sena MLAs, Shinde responded, “In a democracy, the majority holds importance, and in the state assembly, 50 MLAs are with us. We consider ourselves the authentic Shiv Sena, a confirmation provided by the Election Commission. We have faith in the judiciary, and the court`s decision will be based on merit and uphold democratic principles.”

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A revolt led by Shinde and other MLAs in June of the previous year resulted in a schism within the Shiv Sena and the subsequent collapse of the Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government. Shinde subsequently formed a government with the support of the BJP.

In July of this year, NCP leader Ajit Pawar and eight other party MLAs joined the Shinde-led government.

CM Shinde asserted, “The constituents of the `Mahayuti` alliance will now focus on ensuring the election of 45 Members of Parliament from the state.”

Shinde also shared that the Dussehra rally of “Azad Shiv Sainiks” would take place at the Azad Maidan in Mumbai next week, expressing confidence in its success. The name “Azad Shiv Sena” reflects their efforts to rejuvenate the Shiv Sena, symbolized by its bow and arrow emblem. “The Election Commission has officially recognized us as the Shiv Sena with the bow and arrow symbol,” he added.

He further stated, “Our Hindutva is pure and unadulterated, reflecting the ideals of Balasaheb Thackeray. This Dussehra rally will convey the essence of Balasaheb`s thoughts.”

Responding to claims by the opposition that his government may collapse, Shinde assured, “This will never happen. Our government has grown stronger, with the support of more than 200 MLAs. The government is functioning with unwavering enthusiasm.”

In criticism of the Thackeray faction, the CM highlighted their alliance with Samajwadi groups and speculated that they might even join hands with the Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM. He described this as a degradation of principles, based on the actions taken in 2019 for the sake of political power.

Shinde also disclosed that his government`s goal is to strengthen women`s self-help groups in the state and increase the number of beneficiaries from the current 60 lakh to 2 crore. (With inputs from PTI)

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