Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday offered prayers at the famous hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara at Tirumala near Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. The Gandhi scion trekked about 10 kilometres up a steep stairway to reach the presiding deity at the ancient temple. Gandhi who was accompanied by senior party leaders Oommen Chandy, T Subbarami Reddy, JD Seelam and his teenage nephew Raihan, took about two hours to reach the sacred hills.
On his arrival at the temple main entrance, the Congress chief was accorded a warm welcome by the hill temple management. After paying obeisance to the presiding deity of Lord Venkateswara, Gandhi made a brief halt at the heavily guarded Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam guest house situated atop the hill before proceeding to the temple. a temple official was quoted by PTI as saying.
Later in the day, while visiting the holy shrine in Tirupati Gandhi was offered sacred silk cloth, prasadam, and a holy memento, the temple official said. He was in the temple for about 20 minutes. Tight security arrangements were put in place on the hills and all through the route leading to the hill shrine.
Following his visit to the hilltop shrine in Tirupati, Gandhi left for Sri Venkateswara University Stadium to address a rally where he spoke on the long-awaited Special Category Status for the bifurcated Andhra Pradesh including other important factors.
"You do not have to worry about Special Status for AP, it is our commitment. Today I visited the holiest shrine in the state. It was an honour for me to be given the love and affection by the people of Andhra," the Congress president was quoted as saying.
"The moment the Congress Party comes to power in 2019, it is our commitment to the people of Andhra Pradesh, the first thing we will do is give you special status," Gandhi added.
This was Gandhi's first visit to the holly hills at Tirupati after he became the Congress president in December 2017. As Lok Sabha Election 2019 is just a few months away, a resurgent Congress seeks to oust the Narendra Modi-led BJP at the Centre and form the government with support from its regional allies.