As States go to the polls, Rahul Gandhi heads to Kedarnath for a ‘personal spiritual journey’

As States go to the polls, Rahul Gandhi heads to Kedarnath for a ‘personal spiritual journey’

 Congress leader Rahul Gandhi attends evening ‘aarti’ at Kedarnath temple, in Rudraprayag district, on Nov. 5, 2023.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi attends evening ‘aarti’ at Kedarnath temple, in Rudraprayag district, on Nov. 5, 2023.
| Photo Credit: PTI

As campaign fever peaks ahead of Assembly elections in five States, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi headed for a different kind of peak. He landed at Uttarakhand’s Kedarnath on Sunday afternoon, for a three-day visit to the ancient Shiva temple there, nestled in the Himalayas at 11,700 feet above sea level

Though the Congress claims that this is Mr. Gandhi’s ‘very personal’ spiritual journey, the BJP views it as an attempt to copy Prime Minister Narendra Modi who also visited Kedarnath ahead of the 2019 general election and keeps visiting the shrine on occasions such as Diwali.

Mr. Gandhi, who has had a hectic schedule on the campaign trail for many weeks, arrived at Kedarnath by chopper, and is expected to stay at the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam guest house for the next three days, Congress sources said.

‘Spiritual journey’

Mr. Gandhi is expected to perform Rudrabhishek puja, a special religious ritual in honour of Lord Shiva, on Monday. He participated in the evening aarti (worship) at Kedarnath on Sunday, and performed ‘chai seva’ by offering tea to pilgrims. 

The Uttarakhand State Congress Committee asked its workers, via social media, not to gather at Kedarnath and disturb Mr. Gandhi as he is on a spritual journey. The Congress leader is accompanied by his photographer’s team.

‘Copying the PM’

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), the BJP said that no matter how hard Mr. Gandhi tried, people would always remember the ‘anti-Sanatan’ sentiments of the Congress party. The saffron party also shared a video from Kedarnath, showing people chanted “Modi, Modi” as the PM walked towards the temple premises.

BJP spokesperson Manvir Chauhan said that the Congress leader would not fool voters as they knew the truth. “Rahul Gandhi is welcome in Uttarakhand but his Hindutva and copying PM Modi is not even liked by many in Congress too as it’s an anti-Hindu party,” he said.

Suresh Joshi, another senior BJP leader in Uttarakhand, took a dig at the timing of Mr. Gandhi’s tour, saying that those who have never seen Ramlila are praising Ram and visiting Shiva’s shrine.

Ardent Shiv bhakt

This is not Mr. Gandhi’s first visit to Kedarnath. In 2013, he had trekked to this shrine soon after the Kedarnath deluge that took thousands of lives. He claimed that he walked to the temple to send a message to Shiv bhakts or devotees that the pilgrimage route was safe.

In fact, while inaugurating a 369-foot-tall statue of Lord Shiva in Rajasthan in October 2022, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had dubbed Mr. Gandhi as a Shiv bhakt himself. In September 2018, Mr. Gandhi also participated in the Kailash Mansarovar yatra, posting a video of his journey to Mount Kailash on social media, with the caption: Shiva is the Universe.

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