Rahul Gandhi’s pilgrimage to Kedarnath

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Dehra Dun: It was literally a Godsend for the stake holders on the Char Dhaam Yatra route and how Uttarakhand chief minister pulled it out is any body’s guess, but Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s trip on the opening of the doors of the holy shrine of Kedarnath today, at an altitude of over 11,700 ft has become the talk of political observers in the state capital.

Rahul, accompanied by incharge of Uttarakhand in the Congress, Ambika Soni and party leader Jatin Prasad landed in a specially chartered plane at Jollygrant airport here on Thursday. After spending some time paying tributes to Veer Chandra Singh Garhwali, hero of Peshawar incident of April 23, 1930 in which soldiers of the Garhwal Rifles refused to fire on non-violent Pathan demonstrators opposing the arrest of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, he left by chopper for Gauri Kund.

Rahaul on Kedarnath yatra

Rahaul on Kedarnath yatra

From there the Congress leaders, who refused to go to Kedarnath by helicopter, chose to trek 10 kms to have a night halt at Linchauli from where they left early morning so as to reach the shrine of Lord Shiva, also considered to be one of the twelve jyotirlingas, by 8-30 a m when the doors of the temple were thrown open, amidst the chanting of traditional and vedic hymns.

While political observers here feel that chief minister Rawat may have silenced his critics in the party in the state and shown his proximity to the party high command in general and Rahul Gandhi in particular, but more importantly he is able to send a message to people in various parts of the country and abroad that the yatra is safe, after the 2013 tragedy following which there were not many takers, with pilgrims shying away from it because of fear.

It may be mentioned here that Rawat had initially tried to rope in a number of people, including bollywood mega star Amitabh Bachan and cricketer M S Dhoni for the yatra, primarily to get the much needed positive publicity that all is safe on the yatra front and the fears of the 2013 catastrophe should at best be forgotten, as a a lot of work had been done at the grass root level to ensure a safe passage for the pilgrims.

Restored road to Kedarnath (Photo Courtesy: Uttarakhand Tourism)

Restored road to Kedarnath (Photo Courtesy: Uttarakhand Tourism)

That Rahul trekked the over 15 kms distance from Gauri Kund rather than taking the chopper, indicates that he was convinced that the route is safe for pilgrims, despite the fact that there were reports that the weather could take a turn for the worse. This was perhaps something that even the Uttarakhand chief minister had not dreamt of, but is gave him and the yatra the required publicity mileage.

However, political observers here feel that while the yatra may have got the much needed publicity that it required, Rahul, who just returned after his near two month sabbatical, was also perhaps seeking some “divine help” in doing away with the negative publicity that has been haunting him and the Congress after the spate of electoral defeats.

They were also of the view that of late a message had been going out that the Congress had become a predominantly pre-minorities and pre-dalits, because of which the major community had become disillusioned with the party. “By undertaking the pilgrimage to Kedarnath, Rahul may have  tried to shatter this myth and bring the majority community closer to the party”, they felt.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand).

Jagdish has worked with India’s leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications.

A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award.

He lives in Dehra Dun.

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