Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray launched a stinging attack against union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh for his remarks comparing toilets with temples and said the Congress was responsible for the sorry state of affairs.
It was indeed shocking how nearly two-thirds of the countrymen still defecated in the open, Thackeray said.
"In the past 65 years (since Independence), it is the Congress which has ruled the country most of the time. But they did nothing to rid the country of this social problem," Thackeray declared in an editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamna.
At a function at Sewagram in Maharashtra's district, Ramesh contended that "there are too many gods and goddesses in this country. Toilets are more important than temples today".
A furious Thackeray said temples were constructed voluntarily by the people from their own resources, but constructing toilets is the responsibility of the government.
"Instead of temples, why could he (Jairam Ramesh) not utter mosques and madrassas or even churches? What was the need to target only temples in his comments on the need for toilets?" an agitated Thackeray wanted to know.
"Islam would have come in grave danger and Muslim clerics and community people would have trooped onto the streets to protect it, and like Salman Rushdie, somebody would have declared a prize of five-six crores on Jairam Ramesh's head," Thackeray said.
Similarly, if the minister had compared toilets to churches, the Pope would have directly objected to it from Rome and Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi would have kicked him out permanently, Thackeray said in the no-holds barred attack on Jairam Ramesh.
While the Congress dissociated itself from the minister's remarks, the Bharatiya Janata Party and other opposition parties condemned them.
However, Sulabh International chief Bindeshwar Pathak hailed the comments and said they should be viewed in the proper context.
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