Blocked by Congress after 2013 floods, how PM Modi spearheaded Kedarnath’s transformation

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On June 17, 2013, torrential rains of unprecedented magnitude struck Uttarakhand. Hours later, the banks of the Chorabari lake in Kedarnath collapsed due to the cloudburst, sending major flash floods rolling. Carrying huge amounts of debris and boulders, the Mandakini river overflowed into the city, taking along with it everything that stood in its path from infrastructure to agricultural lands, to human and animal lives. The Kedarnath temple, however, withstood the fury of the floods. The ancient shrine and all its idols survived the devastating floods although its complex and surrounding areas were completely destroyed. 

Cut to November 5, 2021, when visuals of PM inaugurating Adi Shankaracharya’s statue and samadhi at Sri Kedarnath Ji came to the fore. Today, nearly 8 years later, the temple stands strong, its complex completely transformed. While addressing the event on Friday, PM Modi shared how the redevelopment of Kedarnath was so personal to him and how he completed the promise that he made during his 2017 speech- a promise that he had also made to himself.

2013: What happened?

The journey of Kedarnath from devastation to glory needs to be narrated right from 2013. In the aftermath of the floods, PM Modi who was the Gujarat CM then, visited Uttarakhand on June 22-23, 2013. Here, he met CM Vijay Bahuguna, then Congress leader in Dehradun where he offered his assistance to help rebuild the Kedarnath temple.

“We have to transform the Kedarnath complex in a technological manner. Gujarat is ready to do so. With the guidance of the Archaeological Department, we will offer his assistance to help rebuild Sri Kedarnath ji,” PM Modi told reporters in 2013 when heartbreaking visuals of the floods began rolling in. 

When he landed in Doon early morning, he was not given permission to do an aerial survey of Kedarnath Ji, his chopper was sent back from Joshimath. Interestingly, hours after his offer, a political controversy erupted when Modi’s help was completely rejected by Congress leader & CM Bahuguna. 

“He (Modi) made me two offers, he said he wants to help in the construction of the temple. I told him it’s a Char Dham, It’s the pride of Uttarakhand. I will rebuild the temple. Second, he said he will send choppers, I told him, I have many choppers waiting since they can’t fly because of the weather. We’ll ask for them if we need them,” the Congress CM said in the midst of the political storm.

2017: The beginning of change

Coming to May 3, 2017, PM’s first big visit to Kedarnath after a BJP government was formed in the Himalayan state. Hitting out at previous regimes, PM Modi announced plans to redevelop Kedarpuri as per the new master plan.

He said, “I had expressed my wish to carry out reconstruction work at Kedarnath (in 2013). They (UPA government) viewed the development with a kind of alarm as they thought the Gujarat chief minister will now reach Kedarnath and mounted pressure on the then state government not to agree to my request. I went back disappointed.” Interestingly, by then, Vijay Bahuguna Joshi had left the Congress and joined the BJP.

Facilities restored, rise in pilgrims

Over the next few years, PM Modi worked towards making this promise a reality. He reviewed the progress of the ambitious project every few months in hour-long meetings. According to Alok Bhatt, CA And Former Economic Advisor to Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Rawat, PM Modi discussed the technical problems in the region. In one meeting, he discussed the probable obstacle of frosting at AdiShankara Samadhi and possible solutions.

Alok Bhatt told Republic TV, “When PM visited Kedarnath in 2017, he announced that he will rebuild it. Work was happening, but during Congress regimes, it was happening at a slow pace. They kept delaying things. The real work started only after BJP came to power in the state. After his redevelopment master plan, PM would personally monitor the progress of the project through his meetings at regular intervals.”

Today, the corridor to the ancient shrine has been cleared, there is streamlining of facilities around Kedarnath Ji. According to devotees who visit the shrine, almost all facilities have been restored. In fact, the numbers also speak for themselves. As per the data, pilgrims who visited Kedarnath saw a whopping rise from 40,922 to 7.31 lakh. Just between 2017-18, the numbers went up from 4.71 lakh pilgrims to 7.31 lakh.

Moreover, after PM Modi’s visit to the shrine in May 2019 and his meditation at the cave, the Kedarnath temple recorded its highest footfall as 7.35 lakh persons visited the temple in the first 45 days. These numbers did face a setback between 2020-21 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the footfall is expected to return to normal as the pandemic phases out. 

Uttarakhand | Devotees visiting Kedarnath shrine say major re-development works undertaken at Kedarnath after 2013 floods

Almost all facilities are available for devotees here. Accommodation facilities should be increased, says a devotee. pic.twitter.com/blqIeByfr2

— ANI (@ANI) November 3, 2021

While speaking at the inauguration on Friday, PM Modi shared how he had felt when he saw the devastation in 2013 and what a voice inside him had said. “I was not able to stop myself, I came running( in 2013). With my own eyes, I saw the destruction, the pain. The people who would come here would think, will this Kedar Dham be able to stand up again? A voice inside me told me, that yes this will stand up once again, in all its splendour, beauty, and grace,” PM Modi said.

पवित्र तीर्थनगरी श्री केदारनाथ धाम को उसकी रुचि, प्रवृत्ति और प्रकृति के अनुरूप भव्य और दिव्य स्वरूप देने का प्रयास साकार होता दिख रहा है।

Making the divine Kedarnath even more vibrant and pilgrim friendly. pic.twitter.com/alQrgRzEgv

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 5, 2021

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