Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday laid the foundation stones of five reconstruction projects here and hit out at the Congress, saying he was not allowed to carry out redevelopment work after the 2013 deluge when he was Gujarat chief minister.
Offering prayers at the Kedarnath shrine, a day before it closes for the winters, he said his visit to the Himalayan temple had strengthened his resolve to serve the nation.
Serving people was true service of the lord, the prime minister said after offering 'rudrabhiskek' at the high altitude shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva.
As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi said he had offered to take the responsibility of reconstructing areas surrounding the temple when the tragedy had struck in 2013, killing thousands of people.
People from different states had perished and he could not stop himself from rushing to the state after the disaster, he said.
“I expressed my wish to carry out reconstruction work at Kedarnath to the then chief minister of the state who agreed in principle.
“In my excitement I shared the development with the media and within an hour TV channels flashed it, causing a storm in New Delhi. They (the United Progressive Alliance government) viewed the development with a kind of alarm as they thought the Gujarat chief minister will now reach Kedarnath and mounted pressure on the then state government not to agree to my request.”
The then chief minister had no choice but to issue a statement saying it did not need the help of the Gujarat government, Modi said.
“I went back disappointed. But perhaps Baba (Lord Shiva) had decided that the responsibility of doing reconstruction work at Kedarnath should be assigned to no one else but to Baba's son," he said.
The chief minister at the time was Vijay Bahuguna, who was with the Congress but is now with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Modi, who had visited the shrine in May this year, laid the foundation stones of five major reconstruction projects at Kedarpuri. These include improved facilities for devotees, construction of retaining walls and ghats at the Mandakini and Saraswati rivers, an approach road to the shrine and reconstructing Adi Guru Shankaracharya's tomb which was devastated in 2013.
He described the projects as ambitious and expensive but said there would be no dearth of funds to ensure that they are completed in a time-bound manner.
The prime minister said he would invite the corporate sector to join hands to develop a grander Kedarnath.
Asking people to make Uttarakhand a favourite destination for tourists, he said the state should aspire to become an Organic State by 2022, when India marks 75 years of independence.
“Blessings from Kedarnath will lead us to fulfil the aspirations of every Indian citizen in 2022," he added.
“Our endeavour is to harness the youthful vigour and water of the mountain state for its all round development... development is gaining ground in Uttarakhand.”
Work on the Chardham road project had begun, he said.
The prime minister also got nostalgic remembering his days in Garurchatti near Kedarnath before he entered politics.
“Some acquaintances I met today reminded me of my time spent in Garurchatti. They were important moments of my life. I wanted to settle down permanently in this soil and spend all my life at Baba's feet. But Baba perhaps willed it differently.
“He perhaps did not want me to spend all my life at the feet of just one Baba and sent me out to serve 125 crore people of the country as their service is the true service of God,” he said.
Modi had last visited Kedarnath in May when the portals of the Himalayan shrine were reopened for devotees after remaining closed for six months for the winters.
All Photographs: Courtesy @PMOIndia/Twitter and Press Information Bureau of India