New Delhi, Oct. 3: Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh today accused Narendra Modi of being a copycat toilet crusader, saying the Gujarat leader’s “enlightenment” on the need for proper sanitation had come very late.
At a power-point presentation yesterday, the BJP’s mascot for 2014 had declared that his priority was not to build temples but toilets, as he sought to project himself as a leader with a social conscience.
Ramesh tore into Modi, saying his toilets-first-temples-later comment was a reiteration of the very words the minister himself had used last year for which he got a literally stinking response.
“After my statement, activists from the BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, RSS and the Bajrang Dal protested in front of my house, urinated there and left bottles of urine as token of their presence,” he said. “Why are they silent today?”
Ramesh, who then held additional charge as minister for sanitation and drinking water, had in October last year said toilets were more important than temples.
BJP leaders like Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Prakash Javadekar had also criticised Ramesh then, saying his statement sought to destroy faith in religion.
The central minister today said Modi’s statement had been prompted by “political compulsion, not conviction” and that “enlightenment” had come late for Modi.
Ramesh, who once said open defecation was a “blot” and a “shame”, said India would have been spared the Babri demolition, the 1993 Mumbai blasts and the Godhra riots had Modi and other BJP leaders realised the importance of toilets over temples earlier.
“In his search for the Prime Minister’s post, the prime ministerial aspirant is capable of saying anything and doing anything. What he said is not out of conviction but out of political compulsion. I am glad that he got this enlightenment, even if it is born out of blind desire for the Prime Minister’s post.”
Ramesh said Indian mythology believes in 10 incarnations of Krishna. But Modi would rewrite the “Dashavatar with Satavatar (hundred incarnations)”, he added, taking a dig at the Gujarat leader’s attempts to recast his image.
The Union minister sought to demolish the Gujarat model of development. He said Gujarat government figures for 2011-12 showed 82 per cent rural households had been covered under the Total Sanitation Campaign the Centre had launched but census data showed only 34 per cent of the households had toilets that year.
“The Gujarat model is based on half truth, falsehood and gross exaggeration,” he said.
Ramesh said sanitation was the single-most important challenge the country was facing and recalled a comment by the late BSP leader Kanshi Ram who had in 1991 said that constructing a giant toilet complex in Ayodhya would solve the temple-mosque controversy.
“I am asking Modi whether he is agreeing with Kanshi Ram’s statement,” he added.