Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent the night before Election 2019 comes to an end in a cave 11,700 feet up in the Himalayas. While the newly constructed space near the Kedarnath shrine is designated a ‘meditation cave’, it was not clear whether the PM was to spend his entire time inside, starting 2 pm Saturday, meditating.
Rudraprayag District Magistrate Mangesh Ghildiyal said dinner would be sent for the PM to the cave which, he added, has electricity, a heater, a simple bed, mattress, a small bathing area, an attached toilet, and an electric geyser for hot water. “There’s a telephone too in the cave. And two tents have been erected at 30 m and 100 m from the cave for security reasons,” Ghildiyal said.
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With intermittent rain exacerbating the cold, the temperature in Kedarnath, which is covered in snow, is expected to drop to minus 3 degrees Celsius at night.
The Sunday Express has learnt that the PMO had sought permission for the visit from the Election Commission, and it was approved on the condition that no Model Code of Conduct provisions are violated.
Modi reached Jolly Grant Airport near Dehradun on Saturday morning, where he was received by Chief Minister Trivendra Rawat. He then proceeded to Kedarnath, reaching amidst tight security at 9.30 am, for what Uttarakhand BJP president Ajay Bhatt called a “spiritual and absolutely personal” visit.
Ghildiyal said the PM did darshan at the shrine, followed by a puja. “After the puja, the Prime Minister reviewed the reconstruction works at Kedarnath.
This was followed by a review meeting with the agencies undertaking the construction works.” Modi tweeted a video where he was seen discussing reconstruction-related issues with Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Utpal Kumar Singh, as well as photos of himself at Kedarnath.
After lunch, at around 2 pm, Modi headed to the ‘meditation cave’. Located along the banks of the Mandakini river, the 10 ft-by-6 ft cave was built last year to accommodate a maximum of two persons seeking to meditate on Kedarnath premises. Modi is the first person to use it, Ghildiyal said.
In photos released by ANI, the PM was seen siting inside the cave wrapped in a saffron shawl, with only his face showing and his eyes closed.
B D Singh, the CEO of the Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee, who is present in Kedarnath, said, “The Prime Minister will be spending the night in the cave. However, it is not clear whether he would be meditating the whole night.”
Ghildiyal too said there was no clarity on Modi’s meditation schedule. “He has been meditating throughout the afternoon, but all we know is that he will be leaving Kedarnath for the Badrinath shrine at 8:30 tomorrow (Sunday) morning, before which there’s a darshan scheduled at the Kedarnath shrine.”
BJP president Bhatt said, “He (Modi) is in Kedarnath for shaanti (peace). It is a spiritual and an absolutely personal visit. He is meditating in a cave. It is the Prime Minister’s right to practise his religion. There’s nothing political about it.”
Modi had last visited Kedarnath in November, when he had also inspected the reconstruction works, which were started after the 2013 flash floods destroyed much of the valley. His government made Kedarnath reconstruction one of its pet projects, and during a visit in October 2017, the PM had laid the foundation stone for five projects in the Kedarpuri area, which encompasses the Kedarnath shrine.