The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the junior partner in Goa's ruling coalition, has alleged that the Congress is trying to marginalise it, accentuating the rift within the alliance.
"The Congress is trying to play big brother here. They seem to be upbeat after the results of the last general elections. There are clear attempts to marginalise the NCP in Goa," Avinash Bhonsle, the party's state general secretary, told IANS.
Bhonsle pointed to the extortion complaint filed against NCP legislator and Tourism Minister Mickky Pacheco as one instance where the Congress was testing NCP's patience.
"The complaint was filed months ago and yet it was registered only in September. Why the delay? The Congress is pressing really hard," he said.
Pacheco was booked last week for threatening casino officials at a five-star resort in South Goa and allegedly extorting Rs.3.6 lakh from the management. While the incident took place in June this year, the criminal complaint was filed only last week by the crime branch of the state police.
Pacheco has said that Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and Home Minister Ravi Naik, both of the Congress, had plotted to put him and the NCP on the backfoot. Both Kamat and Naik have shrugged off the allegation.
The NCP has three legislators in the 40-member unicameral Goa legislative assembly. Two of the three are ministers in the coalition government, which also includes the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), an independent legislator and an unattached legislator from the United Goans Democratic Party (UGDP).
The Congress on the other hand has 18 legislators.
"We have not even had a coalition coordination meeting for more than a year now. Our cabinet ministers too are complaining of victimisation. Our ministers have also been discriminated against as far as budgetary allocation for their portfolios are concerned," Bhonsle said.
NCP senior vice president Surendra Sirsat said the Congress was upping the ante in Goa, with an eye to the assembly polls in Maharashtra.
"They are trying to upstage us here. The Congress is sidelining the NCP in Goa keeping the Maharashtra elections in mind," Sirsat said.
Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Subhash Shirodkar, however, refuted the allegations made by the NCP leaders.
"The atmosphere between the two parties is very conducive, so there is no scope for any suffocation they complain of. The coalition government is performing well," Shirodkar told IANS.
He stressed that chief minister Kamat's doors were open to the NCP legislators anytime, ruling out any urgency as far as coalition co-ordination meetings between the two parties were concerned.
"As far as the FIR against Mickky Pacheco is concerned, we live in a democracy which has some guided principles. In the tourism minister's case, the law will have to take its own course," Shirodkar said.