Speaking at a function for the youth in New Delhi, Modi said he dared to say so even though his image as a Hindutva leader did not allow him.
"I am known to be a Hindutva leader. My image does not permit to say so, but I dare to say. My real thought is-- Pehle shauchalaya, phir devalaya' (temple first, toilet later)," he said.
The Gujarat Chief Minister's comment could well stoke a controversy from within his party and sister organisations, which are keen to rake up the "temple issue" again ahead of next general elections.
A similar comment on toilets from Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh that the country needs more toilets than temples had stirred a row with a large number of women organisations and NGOs protesting against the remark.
Touting the slogan of development that could take the country on the path of speedy progress, Modi said lakhs of rupees were spent on temples in villages, but there were no toilets there.
Invoking Mahatma Gandhi's thoughts, he lamented that it was ironic that women in the country had to go in the open for easing themselves in the absence of toilets.
Modi said it was the quality of a real leader to have the strength to handle all problems and lead the way forward. He said that for good governance and speedy progress, it was necessary for planners to focus on outlay, outcome and social audit.