Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir as the region is "dominated" by Muslims, a remark condemned by the ruling party on Monday as "provocative and irresponsible".
The former union home and finance minister also alleged that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government would not have taken the bold decision had Jammu and Kashmir been a "Hindu-dominated" state.
Chidambaram said that in the 70-year history of the nation, there has never been an example of a state being reduced to a Union Territory and it has always been the reverse.
"Today, Jammu and Kashmir has been turned into a municipality...There are special provisions for other states under Article 371, why only J&K... This is because of religious fanaticism.
"If J&K was a Hindu-dominated state, the BJP would not have done this. They did it only because the region is dominated by Muslims," the former union minister alleged at a public event in Chennai on Sunday.
While Law Minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the Congress leader of making a very irresponsible and provocative statement, BJP leaders Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, also a Union minister, and Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the opposition party was giving a communal angle to Kashmir issue.
Defending the Centre's decision taken last Monday, Naqvi said it has rectified a very big mistake made decades ago by the Congress.
"What he has said is an attempt to give communal colour to the issue even though the decision is in national interest," he added.
Chouhan, a former Madhya Pradesh chief minister, said it was the Congress's "narrow mindedness" that it is looking at the issue through a "Hindu-Muslim" prism.
Prasad said the decision is in the interest of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and their development.
Hitting out at the Congress, he asked if it was not true that over 42,000, mostly Muslims, had died in the Valley during decades of violence.
Another union minister Prakash Javadekar while slamming Chidambaram's remarks accused the Congress of doing injustice with the minorities and other communities in Jammu and Kashmir despite being in power for a long time.
Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi said the statement was "unfortunate" and alleged it was meant to incite the Muslims against the government.
"Unfortunately, former finance minister P Chidambaram and Digvijay Singh are trying to incite Muslim community against the government on the issue (of Jammu and Kashmir)," Modi, a senior BJP leader, said in a tweet.
Chidambaram also claimed that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir was "unstable".
"They (BJP) claim Kashmir is stable. Is it? Does it mean stable if Indian media houses don't cover the unrest in J&K," he said.
He also took potshots at seven regional parties ruling in seven states, alleging they did not cooperate against the BJP's move in the Rajya Sabha out of "fear".
"I know we do not have majority in Lok Sabha, but had the seven parties (AIADMK, YSRCP, TRS, BJD, AAP, TMC, JDU) cooperated, the opposition would have been in majority in RS. This is something disappointing," he added.
The TMC walked out but what's the difference, he asked.
The Congress leader also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "selectively" talking about laws that do not apply for Jammu and Kashmir on the day--August 8-- he addressed the nation after abrogation of Article 370.
"I can list out 90 other laws that apply to J-K," he said.
He also emphasised that there was never a conflict between Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
"Patel was never an RSS functionary. They (BJP) don't have any leader, they are stealing our leader. No matter who steals, history doesn't forget to whom the product belongs."