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Rahul Gandhi’s Kailash Yatra activates BJP-Congress tussle

Congress president and “Shiv bhakt” Rahul Gandhi’s Kailash Mansarovar yatra is now snowballing into a political battle between his party and the BJP. After doubts were raised in some quarters, including by Union minister Giriraj Singh, on whether Mr Gandhi was really on a pilgrimage and the Congress president was trolled on the social media over his tweets posting photographs en route to the holy abode, the Opposition party posted Mr Gandhi’s photograph with Mount Kailash in the background. Also, in a subtle way to undermine the BJP’s “fitness challenge” on the social media, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had himself participated, the Congress came up with its own version by posting a challenge to Mr Gandhi’s “haters”, asking whether they could “keep up” with its president, as he clocked over 46,000 steps while travelling more than 34 km during his yatra.

“Leaving all the haters behind, Congress Presi-dent @RahulGandhi sets the pace during his #KailashYatra. Can you keep up,” tweeted the Congress’ official Twitter handle, with Mr Gandhi’s photograph with Mount Kailash in the background and his fitbit record showing he covered 46,433 steps over 463 minutes and burned 4,466 calories in one day.

Reacting to a photograph of Mr Gandhi with a fellow pilgrim, Union minister of state Giriraj Singh claimed his pictures were photoshopped. He said the shadow of the wooden cane held by Mr Gandhi in the pictures could not be seen. Tweeting the photograph of Mr Gandhi, the senior BJP leader said: “This is photoshopped. Where is the shadow of the wooden cane?” Hitting back at Mr Singh, Congress spokesman R.P.N. Singh said the minister had not done anything worthwhile to show the people and was making these kind of statements “only to remain in the headlines”.

“It is unfortunate that the minister, without any information, is tweeting like this, as he has been doing for the last 4.5 years. He tweets like this to remain in the news. I feel Rahul Gandhiji is very fortunate to have undertaken the Kailash Yatra as it is done only when the call from Lord Shiva comes… Gandhi is the among the first front-rung leaders of the country to have undertaken the arduous yatra. Issues of faith should not be lin-ked to politics,” he said.

The national in-charge of the BJP women wing’s social media team, Preeti Gandhi, had also questioned some of the photos posted by the Congress president en route his pilgrimage. “Are you downloading pics from the Internet and tweeting? Are you really at Mans-arovar or someplace else?” the BJP member said. Her post was retweeted by the BJP’s social media national in-charge Amit Malviya.

Akali Dal leader and Delhi legislator Manjinder Singh Sirsa accused Mr Gandhi of “stealing” the picture from Google and said people will not forgive him for speaking a “lie” even on the Kailash Yatra. “Have seen many who read their speeches written on a page, but have seen for the first time a pilgrim who picks up pictures from Google … Fake ‘Janeyu-dhari’ Rahul Gandhi has spoken a lie even on the Kailash Yatra. People will not forgive him,” he tweeted.

Mr Gandhi left for the yatra on August 31 after he made a promise in April that he will go to Kailash Mansarovar, as his plane plunged hundreds of feet while flying to a public meeting during the Karnataka election. Mr Gandhi is expected back from his Kailash Mansarovar yatra by the end of this week.

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