"On October 5, at Sewagram in fact, where Gandhiji had his ashram in the mid 30s, I made this comment. And I still believe in it that this country needs more toilets than temples, or mosques or gurdwaras or churches," Ramesh told CNN-IBN.
"I had used temples as a short form for any place of worship. And I'd said that what we need, with 60 pc of women still defecating in the open and the link established between open defeacation and malnutrition, what we need are more toilets and less places of worship."
"When I said this Mr Rajiv Pratap Rudy (of BJP) attacked me for destroying the fine fabric between faith and religion. His exact words, I have it here, 'for destroying the fine fabric of faith and religion'. I don't know what he means by it. Then he went on to say that the BJP maintains that one should not get into the debate of whether a temple or toilet is more important.
"Prakash Javadekar then attacked me publicly. Activists of the RSS and VHP came to my house, they left bottles of urine outside my house. I went to Agra a couple of days later and black flags were shown, my effigies were burnt," he said.
"I wonder where they are now? Now that Mr Narendra Modi has suddenly discovered the value of toilets. I wish Mr Narendra Modi discovered this 20 years ago. We wouldn't have had the Babri Masjid episode, communal riots across the country, particularly in Mumbai," said Ramesh.
He said Modi made the comment to woo the massses keeping in mind the PM post.
" All I can say that in his blind pursuit of the Prime Ministerial post, he seems to be willing to make whatever statements that are necessary to appeal to whatever section of the society he wants to appeal to.
"All I wish is that this enlightenment had dawned on him before he became one of the orchestrators of Mr Advani's rath yatra, which caused untold misery on the people of India and brought about a bitter and almost lasting communal divide in our politics," said Ramesh.
"... let me say that I spoke out of conviction, Mr Modi is speaking out of compulsion," he said.
Speaking at a function in New Delhi recently, Modi had said: "I am known to be a Hindutva leader. My image does not permit me to say so, but I dare to say that I sincerely believe in 'Pehle shauchalaya, phir devalaya' (toilets first, temples later)."
--IBNS (Posted on 03-10-2013)