The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ganga jal to cleanse cake stain

Bhopal, April 28: If the cake started it, water will now whet the row.

The scare over the SARS virus may be building up across the country, but Madhya Pradesh public health minister Deepak Saxena has more pressing priorities.

Saxena plans to wash the Hanuman temple at Jam Samli in Chhindwara with “Ganga jal” to wash away the “spiritual contamination” following Uma Bharti’s cake offering to the deity. This at a time when Bhopal airport may be the most ill-equipped to screen people afflicted with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

The BJP’s star campaigner in Madhya Pradesh, Saxena firmly believes, has “polluted” the temple by offering a “cake” on Hanuman Jayanti. He is unmoved by Bharti’s claim that the cake contained no egg. For the minister, the “pollution” and the “cultural invasion” of western civilisation is too grave to be ignored.

Assisting him in this “religious endeavour” is chief minister Digvijay Singh and AICC general secretary Kamal Nath, who is Lok Sabha MP from Chhindwara.

Digvijay, however, made it a point to clarify that it was not his idea but said if invited, he would participate in the “religious ceremony”.

With Madhya Pradesh months away from polls, the cake row has become a big issue in the backward and conservative state, and more so because the Jam Samli temple is an important religious seat with influence that cuts across districts.

Moreover, the Congress sees in it a potential weapon to damage Bharti’s image of a sadhvi. There are also reports of disquiet within the BJP, with some activists questioning the wisdom of making such an offering.

Though Bharti’s supporters say her conscience was clear and she committed no “impurity”, they admit that the issue damaging her political credibility in a region where large sections of people do not have access to newspapers. “She cannot ignore it as the state machinery is spreading canards about her,” a close associate of the BJP leader said.

The Bharti camp, livid at the dozens of priests who have condemned her for the “sacrilegious” act, say these priests are “politicising” the issue to help Digvijay. “Several of them have high-sounding names but at the ground level, these peeths, mutts and temple bodies do not exist,” they say, but at the same time express their helplessness at countering the Congress campaign.

For the time being, the BJP and Bharti’s supporters are pinning all hopes on Bharti’s prediction — that Hanumanji will punish the miscreants for “besmirching” the image of a sadhvi for “political gains”.

Digvijay, a devout Hindu, is also banking on a similar divine intervention. “Hanumanji would punish those who have spoilt the sacredness of the temple,” he said.

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