Asaram says Sonia, Rahul conspiring against him (Roundup)

Last Updated: Thu, Aug 29, 2013 14:20 hrs

Bhopal/Lucknow/New Delhi, Aug 29 (IANS) Asaram Bapu Thursday blamed Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi for his troubles even as the family of a girl who has accused the spiritual guru of sexual assault alleged that it was being pressured to withdraw the case.

"People are telling me that 'madam' and her son are behind the conspiracy," Asaram Bapu said in Bhopal, referring to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. The deadline for him to appear before police in Rajasthan for questioning ends Friday.

Asked if he was accusing the Gandhis for the case against him, he replied: "I am not personally blaming anyone. I am telling you what I have heard because you (media) have been compelling me to speak."

Some BJP leaders, including Uma Bharti, have come out in support of the religious leader, alleging he was being targeted for his views against the Congress, but the BJP formally washed its hands off the godman.

Asked about his alleged closeness to the Bharatiya Janata Party, Asaram Bapu snapped at journalists: "No party is defending me. This is wrong. You are trying to harass me."

A 16-year-old girl alleged last week that Asaram Bapu raped her during one of her stays at his Jodhpur ashram. Asaram Bapu has denied the charge.

He was Tuesday served a notice by Rajasthan Police at his ashram in Indore. Citing prior engagements, he sought more time to appear before the police. On Thursday he said he was ready to face police.

"I won't ask for more time. I am ready," he said.

In Lucknow, the family of the girl alleged that it was being pressured to drop the case.

The girl's father said in Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh that Pooja Ben, a close disciple of Asaram Bapu, came to the family's house and pleaded with them to end the matter.

"She came to our house, touched the feet of my wife and requested us to withdraw the matter and admitted that Asaram Bapu had committed a grave mistake," the father told reporters.

But he said the family wouldn't do so because Asaram Bapu had "played with their faith and emotions".

The girl's father criticised the godman for claiming that the allegations against him were false.

"If he feels so, let there be a probe by the CBI. If I am guilty of conspiracy, I should be hanged. And he is found guilty, he should be sent to the gallows."

Security has been enhanced at the girl's house. An inspector as well as four male and two women constables have been posted there.

Contacted by IANS, a spokesperson of Asaram Bapu's ashram in Indore said they had no knowledge of anyone visiting the girl's family.

The Congress refuted allegations that either the party or its president was ranged against Asaram Babu.

Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdary said: "Why would the Congress bother to conspire against him? He has a huge following."

Meanwhile, the BJP distanced itself from the controversy.

"There is no question about saving someone or not. We should let law takes its own course," party spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.

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