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A prominent NGO involved in promoting sanitation in the country today strongly defended Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh who created a controversy by saying there were more temples in the country than toilets.

Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak came in Ramesh’s defence after BJP attacked the minister and Congress distanced itself from his controversial remark.

Hailing Ramesh for pushing the agenda of sanitation in the country, Pathak said what Ramesh has stated is “factually correct” and the statement should be viewed in this context.

“I urge people to take it (the remark) in a positive perspective. What Ramesh meant was to make India an open-defecation free nation. There should not be any unnecessary controversy over it,” Pathak said, adding the comment must be treated as an effort to motivate masses against open defecation.

BJP had slammed Ramesh for his comment, saying he should not make such statements which hurt the “fine fabric of faith and religion” in the country. BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said maintained that one should not get into the debate of what is more important – a temple or a toilet.

Congress on its part appeared to disapprove of the Minister, saying, “We respect the sanctity of every religious place”. “Congress party believes in sarvadharmasambhav. Equal respect for all religions. Equal respect for all religious places,” party spokesman Manish Tewari had said.

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