"It's a question of their (MNS') survival, because of which they had to take the decision on contesting Lok Sabha polls," Chavan told reporters.

Raj Thackeray had on Monday announced MNS' support for the BJP's PM nominee and also released first list of party candidates for Lok Sabha polls.

"It would have been surprising had MNS not contested Lok Sabha elections," Chavan said.

When asked if Raj Thackeray's move would benefit ruling Congress-NCP combine alike in 2009, Chavan refused to comment.

Political circles are abuzz with speculation whether MNS' entry into the poll fray will ensure the 2009 encore when the then fledgling outfit ate into Shiv Sena-BJP combine's votes in six parliamentary constituencies of Mumbai and at other seats as well, largely benefiting Congress and NCP.

State unit Congress president Manikrao Thakre snubbed Raj, saying "both Shiv Sena and MNS are same. Their ideologies do not differ from each other. We are stronger in Maharashtra and will remain number one here".

(Agencies)

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