Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis's wife Amruta has come in for flak from rationlists after accepting a necklace, apparently produced from thin air by a self-styled godman.
The incident occurred during an awards event organised by a Pune-based educational institute.
In visuals aired non-stop by Marathi channels, the godman, Guruvanand Swami, is shown giving Amruta, a banker, a necklace, which apparently materialises from thin air.
Avinash Patil, president of the Committee for Eradication of Superstition in Maharashtra, said the Chief Minister should clarify his stand on the act of his wife.
"Fadnavis should issue a clarification on the incident. If needed, he should tender an apology," Patil said.
"We are willing to offer a Rs 21 lakh prize to the godman if he is able to perform his 'miracle' in controlled conditions as specified by us scientifically," he said.
Amruta on Monday said she does not believe in miracles. "I offered my salutations to him as respect to an elderly person. These are values I have been brought up with and these are the values I will continue to practice," she said.
"Guruvanand Swami gave me a necklace as a blessing. I don't believe in miracles of any sort," she said.
As Marathi news channels kept showing the clip reviving a debate on superstition and magic, banned by law in Maharashtra after the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, Amruta told reporters that the media interpretation of the incident was "misleading".
"Guruji called me in a gesture of affection. When I went to him for namaskar, I saw the chain in his hand which he gave to me. It was not magic as he was already holding the chain in his hand when I went near him. I am a rational individual and do not believe in such things," Amrita, a bank executive, said.
NCP spokesman Nawab Malik demanded government action against the godman in keeping with provisions of anti-magic law in the state.
Another NCP leader Vidya Chavan said Amruta should have been more careful in attending such functions as she happens to be wife of the Chief Minister who is also Home Minister.
Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant alleged BJP itself believed in godmen and the incident was indicative of its thinking.
Hamid Dabolkar, the activist-son of the slain rationalist, said the website of the godman claims that he possessed supernatural powers which should be investigated. He said that the anti-superstition committee would challenge his reported claim.
Dabholkar , however, hailed Amruta for clarifying her stand and stating that she did not believe in magic.
Amruta was felicitated at the function organized by city-based Suryadatta Institute which also honoured some other eminent personalities including former justice PB Sawant, MS Bitta, and musician Pyarelal Sharma.