Rahul Gandhi's Kailash Mansarovar yatra: Promises to keep and miles to go

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New Delhi:

The picturesque snowcapped Mount Kailash in Tibet overlooking a lake is believed to be the abode of Hindu god Shiva. Congress president Rahul Gandhi had promised a visit to the sacred site after a terrifying experience during the last Assembly polls electioneering when the aircraft he was travelling in made a sudden steep descent.  Finally, Rahul is setting out on a nearly two-week-long pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar.

Thus, when he flies off to Kathmandu on August 31, as is expected now on way to Mount Kailash, Rahul would be fulfilling his promise he announced about a few months ago at Delhi’s Ramlila Grounds at one of his party’s rallies to visit the holy site in keeping with his claims to be a devotee of Shiva.

This vow of sorts to visit the holy site in the Himalayas was actually made since Rahul’s temple visits during the Karnataka and the Gujarat Assembly elections were made an issue by the BJP. This became all the more palpable when an entry in the visitors register of one of the Gujarat temples showed him as a non-Hindu and the media went hoarse with the story. 

The BJP has been blaming the Congress and Rahul of being minority, or mainly Muslim, savvy and thus his every action has been under sharp gaze of his adversaries and opponents. So much so that Rahul’s mother and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi had attributed the 2014 defeat of her party at a media conclave to BJP’s success in painting Congress as a party of Muslims. 

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This issue was again raked up in July in the wake of Rahul’s meeting with a group of select and eminent Muslim leaders by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He quoted a report in an Urdu newspaper in his address in a small town of Uttar Pradesh to blame Rahul for assuring the gathering of Muslim intellectuals that Congress was a party of Muslims.

And ever since, this battle has been escalated as Rahul in a more recent visit to London has blamed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to be like a foil of Muslim Brotherhood that has been the subject of infamy in West Asia and through the rest of the world because of its harsh, stridently puritan and often violent brand of Islam.

It is amid such political discourse that Rahul Gandhi is going to take his time off for a pilgrimage to the cool, serene and salubrious environs of Himalayas where once the Hindu god Shiva had sat in meditation as per the legends and belief since yore. Yet, it is not known how this is going to be taken by the Congress rival parties or to be more precise the Sangh Parivar.

Rahul is expected to be back in Delhi after September 12. The Congress insiders say that though Rahul has always been keen to go on the pilgrimage it took time for him to really make it because he has always been so preoccupied with one task or the other after taking over as party president towards the end of last year.

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A whole new team of key party officials both at the Centre and the state has been put in place by Rahul after becoming Congress president. In between recasting his team in several stages, Rahul has been on visits abroad and to states or provinces back home. Only the other day, he visited flood-torn Kerala. Besides the usual businesses of the Congress president, the weather too is to be factored in for a visit to ecologically unpredictable zone like Kailash Mansarovar.

Whatever could be the reason, Rahul took a lot of time to undertake what has been a fervently promised pilgrimage for him. And, thus, observers are not going to miss the timing of his pilgrimage since this is taking place when polls in four states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram – are thought to be too close. And, thus, this can well be the right time for refurbishing of image by the Congress president.

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