“People tell me Madam and her son are framing me. This has been going on for the last four-and-a-half years”

Asumal Sirumalani, also called Asaram Bapu, a preacher accused of child rape, targeted the Congress leadership during a visit to the city on Thursday.

Exiting the airport, he told reporters: “People tell me Madam and her son are framing me. This has been going on for the last four-and-a-half years. They support those involved in religious conversion.” But he evaded questions whether he would comply with the summons to appear before the Jodhpur police on Friday. “Jail for me is like heaven. But I don’t want to go there as I fear that they will mix something in the food or water, which will affect my brain... Saints are pressurising me. There are many who will rise, but I said keep calm.”

Asaram flew to the city in a chartered aircraft to attend the last rites of his son Narayan Sai’s father-in-law Krishnani, who died in the early hours of Thursday. Krishnani headed Asaram’s ashram on the outskirts of Bhopal.

At the airport and at the ashram, Asaram lost his cool with reporters — who were also heckled by his devotees — when they asked whether any party was supporting him. Asaram said no party supported him, and he warned reporters not to ask “mindless questions.”

In a statement, the BJP, without naming Asaram, accused the Congress of attacking saints while supporting Batla House terrorists to appease minorities. Party leaders in Madhya Pradesh Uma Bharti, Prabhat Jha, Kailash Vijayvargiya and Ramesh Mendola have come out in support of Asaram, whereas Ravi Shankar Prasad has said the law should take its own course.

At the ashram, Asaram said he does not have any enmity with any “foreign or Indian woman.” “There was a conspiracy to plant the girl’s dupatta in my room. People told me that she told her friends, on leaving my Jodhpur Ashram, that her deeds would shake India and she would become famous. The police are threatening her friends to testify against me... I am told this is a conspiracy by the Delhi Police [which registered the FIR initially].”

The Congress hit back, saying he was paying for his “misdeeds.” “He is attempting to cover his misdeeds. He is a monster in the guise of an ascetic. He should be hanged. There are dozens of cases against him in Gujarat... He faces land disputes at Ratlam and Indore. Will he blame us for this too,” asked spokesman Mukesh Nayak.

Jodhpur Commissioner of Police Biju George Joseph told reporters on Wednesday that he would send a team to arrest Asaram on August 31, if he failed to turn up for questioning on Friday. A senior officer of the Criminal Investigation Department here told The Hindu that the police were looking into cases involving his organisation. “If anything serious comes up, we will notify the Home Ministry.”