Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray on Monday launched a diatribe against Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh over the latter’s comment that there were more temples in the country than toilets.

Slamming Mr. Ramesh’s remarks, Mr. Thackeray put the Congress in the dock for not being able to provide even the most basic sanitary facilities since Independence, commenting that nearly two-thirds of the countrymen still defecated in the open.

“In the past 65 years [since Independence], it is the Congress which ruled the country most of the time. But they did nothing to rid the country of this social problem,” said Mr. Thackeray, in an editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamna.

While Mr. Thackeray patted Mr. Ramesh for being a good Minister who had done exemplary work, he alleged that Mr. Ramesh was part of a ‘coterie’ close to Congress president Sonia Gandhi whose task it was to spew venom only at Hindus.

While temples were constructed voluntarily by the people from their own resources, constructing toilets was the responsibility of the government, said the Sena chief.

“Instead of temples, had he [Mr. Ramesh] uttered mosques and madrasas or churches, then extremist Muslim clerics would have issued a fatwa on his head by now like they did to author Salman Rushdie,” he quipped.

Similarly, had Mr. Ramesh mentioned churches, the Pope would have objected to it and Ms. Gandhi would have dismissed him from the party, remarked Mr. Thackeray.