Chhattarpur: Senior BJP leader and Union Minister Uma Bharti skipped a meal with Dalit community members during an event held in Chhattarpur, saying that she was not like Lord Rama who would purify people by having food with them.
The BJP leader later apologised, saying she was not aware that she was supposed to have food with them.
According to reports, the firebrand BJP leader had refused to attend the event which was held at the Dadri village two days back.
Uma Bharti had said that she does not take part in such community meals as she doesn't consider herself Lord Rama, who would purify people by having food with them.
"I don't go to the houses of Dalits to have meals, though I support this trait (breaking bread with the people of scheduled caste category)," the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister had said while addressing a function in the village.
''I instead invite the Dalits to my home to have food,'' she said.
"I want to share a secret with you. I don't take part in 'samrasta bhoj' (community meals) because I do not consider myself Lord Rama, who went to Shabri's home and the Dalits became purified," she said, referring to the mythological episode from Ramayana.
In the past few months, the RSS and the BJP have been promoting 'samrasta bhoj' to spread across the message of social harmony and to eradicate the evil of casteism.
"I am not Lord Rama that if I sit with them, they will be purified... Instead, if they come to our home and sit in our kitchen, we will be sanctified," Bharti said.
She added that she believes that when she serves food to Dalits on her dining table, "her place ... Utensils will attain purity."
"Come to Delhi...My nephew's wife would prepare food for you, I will serve the meal to you, my nephew will collect your plate after you finish eating and wash them," she said.
"I invite you to my place but I can't have a meal with you because I have already taken it...I love you all. I am with you, always," she had said.
Later in a statement, Bharti said she had clarified from the dais itself during the programme that she was not aware that she was supposed to take food in the programme, organised by her close associate Harshu Maharaj.
"I had to go to Papoda in Tikamgarh district, which is 150-km away from here, and meet Vidyasagar Maharaj. Therefore, I apologised for not taking meals with them," Bharti was quoted as saying.
She added that the time has gone when one needed to have food with Dalits to bring about "samrasta" (harmony).
"Instead, now you have to bring them on par politically, socially, in government and administration, among others, to ensure harmony.... Now, we need to bring harmony by overcoming discrimination that is being done with them (Dalits and backwards) in politics," she said.
(With PTI inputs)