The Maharashtra Congress on Wednesday sent a signal to its party cadres to work hard and strengthen its units right from the grassroots level in preparation for the next polls. Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Manikrao Thakre told the media after a three hour meeting that while no one could be happy in a coalition, the Congress believed in fighting together with like-minded parties.

He evaded questions on whether the Congress was planning to go it alone in the next round of State and Lok Sabha polls. He said if a party felt that it could become the largest party in the State, then there was no harm in aiming for that. The Congress and the Nationalist Congress (NCP) were beset by a fresh row recently after the Gujarat elections where the NCP accused the Congress of fielding candidates in the very seats it had also put up people. After that, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan made an off the cuff remark that if the NCP wanted to go alone then it should be prepared to sit in the Opposition benches.

Today Mr. Chavan clarified in response to a question that he had indeed made a mistake and he thought the reference was to Maharashtra and he didn’t know the question was being asked with reference to the Congress NCP alliance in Gujarat. He said the party leadership in New Delhi will decide on the question of alliance and since the party was in a coalition government now it would abide by the coalition dharma.

Mr. Chavan has far more pressing problems on hand with the drought in the State reaching grim proportions. “This is a different kind of drought,” he said, adding that rains had failed in the same areas repeatedly. Even the feeding points for water tankers were drying up and the cabinet today approved Rs. 413.98 crore as emergency funds for several districts which are in the grip of acute scarcity.

The Jayakwadi dam is almost dry and water to the Parli power station may have to be stopped soon , he said. There could be shortage of Tankers and sugar factories had been asked to pitch in with tankers to help out.

Drinking water would be a priority and water from dams would be used first for drinking, though irrigation was equally important, he pointed out. Water could be ferried by trains as well in certain areas. Mr. Chavan is planning to meet the Prime Minister soon and pitch for Rs. 2200 crore from the Centre for diversion of irrigation water for drinking.