After his roaring speech in Lok Sabha a few days ago, it was a different Rahul Gandhi who visited Kedarnath on the occasion of the temple’s kapat (portal) opening ceremony on Friday morning. He stayed inside the temple for at least 10 minutes and offered prayers. The priests applied sandalwood paste on his forehead. Then he came out and took a “parikrama” (a round of the temple) in the company of Raval (chief priest) Bhima Shankar. He also extended a supporting hand to the old Raval during the “parikrama”.
“Aam taur par mandir mein jaata hoon to mangta nahin hoon. Mein andar gaya, aag jaisi shakti mili (Generally, I don’t ask the God for anything while visiting a temple. I felt a fire-like energy after entering the temple,” Rahul told reporters in front of newly-built cottages. He preferred to stand on a snow-covered mountain to talk to reporters.
Rahul said he had two aims before visiting Kedarnath. “First, I came here to pay my respect to those who died in the 2013 Uttarakhand tragedy.” He recalled he had visited Uttarakhand at the time of disaster also. “Second, I wanted to help the porters who work here,” he explained the reason behind his decision to trek to Kedarnath. Rahul said he also wanted to send out a message to people that a visit to Kedarnath is safe. He appreciated the rehabilitation and reconstruction work undertaken by Congress-ruled Uttarakhand government.
“It was Chief Minister Harish Rawat’s idea to build different helipads. Such helipads should be built in other states also. It can help in evacuation,” he added.
Rahul began his journey to Kedarnath by trekking the hills from Gaurikund to Lincholi, nearly 12 km, on Thursday afternoon. He made a night halt at Lincholi and interacted with the labourers involved in reconstruction work there. “He made enquiries about their children’s education. Since most labourers are from Nepal, he also asked about the functioning of Nepal government,” said a leader accompanying Rahul.
“Rahulji took a quick decision to visit Kedarnath on the request of the CM. It was Rahul’s own decision to trek nearly 16 km from Gaurikund to Kedarnath on foot,” said a close aide of Chief Minister Harish Rawat. Talking to reporters, Rawat said Rahul’s decision to travel on foot has made his task of creating publicity for Char Dham Yatra easy.