Congress leader Rahul Gandhi walked 14 km to the Vaishno Devi shrine from Katra and also returned on foot the next day.
In videos, the Congress MP was seen walking briskly alongside pilgrims on the 14-km stretch leading to the shrine, surrounded by security personnel. Congress workers holding up party flags lined the pathway.
“I have come here to offer prayers to the Mata (mother goddess). I don’t want to make any political comments here,” Rahul Gandhi told reporters who chased him to the shrine. The media was not allowed to take their cameras.
The Congress posted videos in which the MP was seen interacting with pilgrims.
According to the Congress’s Jammu and Kashmir unit President Ghulam Ahmed Mir, Gandhi had wanted to visit Vaishno Devi for years.
“We have been asking Rahul Gandhi for the past three years. He also wanted to come, but the political situation was such that he cannot visit,” Mr Mir was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Mr Gandhi, according to him, was determined to visit the shrine on foot and participate in the prayers and aarti. “The next day he will again come down on foot. He has special faith in Mata Vaishno Devi, that is why we have not scheduled any political engagements for him on the first day of his visit,” Mr Mir said.
After Jammu, Gandhi plans to visit Ladakh.
This is his second visit to Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation in August 2019 of Article 370. Jammu and Kashmir has been divided into two territories.
Kanhaiya not joining Congress
Meanwhile, CPI leader and former JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar has denied rumours that suggest he is planning to switch over to Congress.
People within the Congress say that Kanhaiya had met Rahul Gandhi twice in the recent past. “Prashant Kishor was present during both the meetings. Negotiations are in the final stages,” claimed a Congress leader from Bihar, wishing not to be named. Kanhaiya however, denied any such meeting.