Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Friday trekked to the revered Kedarnath shrine and said he was here to pay his respects to the victims of the 2013 floods in the region and did not ask for anything.
Trekking a distance of 16 km to reach the shrine, Gandhi said that though he did not ask for anything at the shrine, he felt a “fire-like” energy after entering the holy portals.
The Congress vice president said he had two motives to visit the shrine on foot.
“First was to respect the people who lost their lives here. In 2013 I came here and saw myself what happened here. So I thought if I go Kedarnath in a helicopter it will be disrespectful to them. I though the way those pilgrims came here, I should come here the same way.
“Second motive is that a lot of people work here. Porters are here, they have carried your cameras here. They carry things and people. They are facing a lot of difficulties and are in fear. They are in fear because a tragedy had occurred here and also the tourists who come here are facing a lot of discomfort and fear.
“So I thought if I walk, then our brothers, who are here here, it will be advantageous for them. People will come and their fears will be reduced a bit,” he said.
Asked what wish he had asked in the temple, Gandhi said he did not ask for anything.
“Usually when I go to a temple I don’t wish for anything. That is my habit I don’t ask. I went to the temple and did not ask anything. But I went inside I experienced some fire-like energy,” he said.
Rahul criticised the media for not projecting the restoration and rehabilitation work in the flood-ravaged hills in the right perspective.
“When the tragedy happened the officers who work here and put in their blood and sweat, I don’t want to say anything but then the media portrayed a bit negatively about them. You people said no work is being done. After the tragedy officers, army, police personnel, workers all have done a good job. The roads have been built well, arrangements are good,” he said,
He also supported the chief minister’s idea to construct more helipads.
“CM’s idea of a helipad is something, I feel should be in other states as well. There should be helipads at several places so that if we want to evacuate, it can be done easily,” he said.
Construction of more helipads would also boost tourism, Gandhi said.
Describing the arrangements for the Kedarnath yatra as “full-fledged”, he said the yatra is safe and the pilgrims should take full advantage of it.
Earlier on Friday morning, Gandhi along with Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat and the party’s state unit chief Ambika Soni reached Kedarnath as the doors of the shrine were opened to the devotees amid elaborate rituals.
Former Union minister Jitin Prasad and a number of ministers of the state Cabinet were also present during the occasion, he said.
Gandhi and other Congress leaders had on Thursday embarked on the 10 km long trek to Lincholi where they stopped for the night. They then underook a 6 km trek to reach Kedarnath.
On Tuesday, the doors of Gangotri and Yamunotri shrine were thrown open to pilgrims, while the doors of BadrinathTemple, the other shrine of the Char Dham Yatra, would be opened on April 26.
Image: Rahul Gandhi making his way up to the Kedarnath temple. Photograph: PTI