People's Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, once an ally of former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, on Saturday accused him of having created "communal, regional and ethnic divide" in Jammu and Kashmir.
Addressing election rallies in Bhaderwah constituency from where Azad is contesting as Congress candidate, Mehbooba criticised Azad for "fomenting religious, regional and ethnic dissentions in the state for political purposes".
"It is, perhaps, for the first time in the history of the state that a chief minister allied himself with a particular region and ethnic group, thereby brewing strong undercurrents of polarisation," she said.
The PDP and the Congress ruled the state in coalition since 2002, but Mufti's party withdrew support to the government headed by Azad this year, opposing its proposal to allocate forest land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.
The move was bitterly opposed in Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, forcing the government to withdraw it, but that was met by more protests in Hindu-majority Jammu region.
"A chief minister is like a father and he has to treat all his family members fairly," she said and added that Azad could not do justice to the chair and his policies fuelled regional, religious and ethnic tensions.
Mufti was speaking on the day her own constituency, Wachi in Shopian district of south Kashmir, went to polls in the fifth of the seven-phased assembly elections.
"It was shocking to hear Azad saying at a public meeting yesterday that he gave mandate to eight candidates from a particular ethnic community in the state while other parties neglected them," Mufti said and added that such prejudiced utterances, in a state like Jammu and Kashmir, only demonstrate his lack of political comprehension.
Azad had said his party had given ticket to eight Gujjars and asserted he was the "biggest well-wisher" of the community."
Mufti said Azad's "inexcusable mishandling" of the coalition government not only fettered away the gains made on the security, political and development fronts between 2002 and 2005, but caused a "terrible damage" to the traditions of communal harmony and brotherhood in the state.
"It was because of the visionless policies of Azad that the positively transforming situation in the state was put in a reverse gear immediately after he took over in November 2005," she alleged.