New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday left the national capital to undertake the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra as per his wish expressed in April after a mid-air accident was averted while he was flying to Karnataka for campaigning in assembly polls.
The pilgrimage, aimed at seeking the blessing of Lord Shiva for prosperity and success of the country and its people, will take about 12 days, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
He did not disclose the route map due to security reasons.
Gandhi took to Twitter to put out a Sanskrit 'shloka' from the Upanishads and tweeted a picture of Mount Kailash along with it.
"Shiv bhakt Congress president Rahul Gandhi has left for undertaking the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, where he will take the 'parikrama' of Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva, and of Mansarovar lake. The yatra will take around 12 to 15 days, but the exact route cannot be disclosed due to security reasons," Surjewala said.
The BJP was quick to react alleging the Congress chief wanted Chinese ambassador to give him a ceremonial send-off and accused him of holding brief for China everywhere like a "Chinese spokesperson".
Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra sought to know from the Congress as to which politicians and officials Gandhi will meet during his visit to China, "his favourite country".
Patra did not comment on Gandhi's pilgrimage, saying it is a personal visit. 'Kailash Mansarovar' region falls in China.
"You are Rahul Gandhi not Chinese Gandhi. Why should the Chinese ambassador want to see off a non-Chinese person? There is no such protocol," Patra told a press conference, asking what is the Congress president's "China connection".
Surjewala hit back and accused the BJP of trying to create "hurdles" in the yatra, saying by doing so they have invited Lord Shiva's wrath.
"An unnerved PM and a rattled BJP have shown their parochial-hateful mindset by mocking this sacrosant religious journey of Rahulji to Maha Kailash. Calling this auspicious Yatra "honeymoon tourism" by BJP is the vilest attack on Hindu faith and beliefs.
"It is indeed sad and tragic that BJP is insulting the abode of Lord Shiva and Maa Parvati by such cheap political tactics. We pray that Mahadeva shows them the path of enlightenment to cleanse their minds and souls from the vile hatred," he said.
He said the Congress leader is undertaking the yatra for the country to move ahead and attain success and that the country remains secure.
Noting that as per tradition when someone embarks on a pilgrimage, people pray for its success, "but it is unfortunate that the BJP is disturbed over this difficult but spiritual journey".
"Even today for petty gains of power the BJP is creating hurdles and conspiring against the yatra. These small and petty conspiracies the BJP can do, but the BJP will not be able to come between 'Shiv bhakt' Rahul and his devotion to 'bhole shankar'," he said.
Surjewala said Rahul has left for the Mansarovar yatra with prayers for the country's progress. It will be successful while those powers that create hate, hurdles and divide people their conspiracies will fail, he added.
"Why is the BJP shaken by his the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Can't he go for the yatra to pray for the progress and prosperity of the country or will he have to take permission from Narendra Modi ji. Has the BJP's arrogance reached such levels. We ask the BJP people to respect the age-old traditions and culture of this country," he said.
He said Rahul had vowed to undertake the arduous and spiritual journey to Kailash Mansarovar after a narrow escape in the air incident during Karnataka elections, as is now confirmed by the DGCA report. "Rahulji seeks Lord Shiva's grace for all fellow countrymen," he added.
About Gandhi's April 26 plane incident, Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation came out with its 30-page report in which it has pinned the blame on the pilots for the near-crash of Congress president Rahul Gandhi's chartered plane at Hubli in North Karnataka.
Alleging "intentional tampering" with aircraft, the Congress party had demanded a probe into the "suspicious and faulty performance" of the aircraft.
At the AICC briefing, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the loss of auto pilot can be dangerous and the sharp loss of altitude can be so sudden that pilots can find it difficult to recover. "This could have caused serious accident," he said.
Singhvi said does the report not virtually say "that there was a possibility of an imminent accident and good fortune, good luck and God saved it. I think from the nature of BJP or its leader or the PM, I do not expect sympathy, but at least do not expect counter allegation. Why is DGCA giving a report like this and I am prepared to take the consequences to release the report."
The pilgrimage to Mt Kailash, which is considered the abode of Lord Shiva in Hindu mythology and is in the Tibetan Himalayas, is organised every year between June and September.
On April 26, the plane carrying Gandhi and some others from Delhi to Hubballi airport in Karnataka developed a technical problem and tilted heavily on the left side. The plane dipped steeply with violent shuddering, but soon recovered and landed safely.
Three days later, on April 29, Gandhi announced during a rally here that he wanted to undertake the pilgrimage.