New Delhi: Amidst a controversy over his visit to Kedarnath and Badrinath shrines during 'silent period' for the last leg of polling, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday thanked the Election Commission for the permission, even as opposition parties cried foul over the much-publicised trip and alleged poll code violation.
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi termed the visit a "drama in Kedarnath" and was also highly critical of the poll panel, saying its "capitulation before Mr Modi & his gang is obvious to all Indians".
"The EC used to be feared & respected. Not anymore," he tweeted.
After offering prayers at the Kedarnath temple and spending around 17 hours at a holy cave near the shrine, Modi said, "I did not ask for anything. I don't believe in asking for, because the God only wants us to give...All I want is 'Baba' Kedarnath bestows his blessings not just upon India but the entire mankind."
Modi said he remained totally cutoff from the outside world as there was no communication link to the cave he stayed in, and he kept looking at the shrine through a small window.
Modi also thanked the Election Commission, which had allowed the visit while "reminding" the Prime Minister's Office that the model code of conduct is still in force, for granting him the permission. The PM said he got two days of "rest" there.
"I am fortunate to have visited the temple on multiple occasions," he said, while thanking the media for taking out time to go to Kedarnath at a time when the poll process is underway.
The media's presence, Modi said, will send a message that the town has been developed well.
Major opposition parties including the Congress, however, alleged violation of the poll code by the visit, several pictures and videos of which have been splashed across social media over last two days, including through the Twitter accounts of Modi and the BJP.
Congress MP Pradip Bhattachraya wrote to the Election Commission, saying the media coverage of the visit was in violation of the Model Code of Conduct. He said he has requested the poll panel to stop the coverage and take stern action.
"The way he (Modi) ensured media coverage of his trip to Kedarnath temple is nothing but a violation of MCC. His trip is all over the media. Is this not a way to directly and indirectly influence voters?" Bhattacharya asked.
The Trinamool Congress also complained to the poll panel that Modi's address to the media at Kedarnath shrine was "unethical" and that the coverage of his visit has violated poll norms.
TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu wrote to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora claiming that "continuous" telecast of Modi's "private activities" at the shrines is violation of the poll code.
Modi is now trying to project a "megalomaniac" image of himself through various "dubious" activities, Naidu said.
Modi reached the temple town Saturday. Dressed in a grey traditional pahari attire, he offered prayers for about 30 minutes and undertook a circumambulation of the Kedarnath shrine situated at a height of 11,755 feet near the Mandakini river.
The prime minister then went inside a cave near the shrine to meditate. Draped in a saffron shawl, Modi was seen meditating at the holy cave.
The Kedarnath and Badrinath shrines reopened for devotees earlier this month after the winter break.
Early Sunday morning, Modi also tweeted urging people, especially first-time voters, to vote in record numbers to shape India's development trajectory in the years to come.
The 59 constituencies where voting was held Sunday included Varanasi, where Modi is in the fray for his second consecutive term.