On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke the internet with images that showed him wrapped in saffron robes, meditating in an austere cave near the Kedarnath shrine in Uttarakhand. With the hurly burly of the election campaign finally behind him with the last phase of voting due on Sunday, Modi seemed to be getting in touch with his inner fakir or ascetic – a purported element of his persona that his supporters have long admired.
As it turns out, the cave in which the photos were taken is a man-made haven run by the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam. Known as the Rudra cave, it can be booked online for Rs 990 a day. Facilites include electricity, drinking water, and “morning tea, breakfast, lunch, evening eea and dinner at prescribed timing which can be changed upon request”.
The cave also has a telephone connection and an attendant who can be summoned with a bell.
It was here that the photos of the “karma yogi”, as he was described in this tweet by his Bharatiya Janata Party, were shot, reported the Navbharat Times.
The Rudra cave is located one kilometre from the Kedarnath shrine. The tariff was slashed from Rs 3,000 a day to Rs 990 this year, and the first five guests in the cave will be allowed complimentary stays, the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam’s general manager BL Rana told the Hindustan Times.
Last year, Rana said, the high tariff, the mandatory rule of booking the cave for a minimum of three days, and extremely cold weather did not attract tourists.
The Navbharat Times noted that the cave is five metres long and three metres wide, 12,000 feet above sea level, and was constructed at a cost of Rs 8.5 lakh. The authoroties plan to construct five such caves near Kedarnath.
The report also noted that Modi is the second guest in the cave: the first was BJP president Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah, who stayed in the cave from May 9 to May 11.
Just as Modi’s photos of visiting Kedarnath drew laughs on Twitter, the fresh batch of pictures featuring him in the garb of a monk triggered swift and funny responses.
One user created a video of Modi floating away from the cave and reaching his birthplace, Gujarat’s Vadnagar.
Others pointed out the artificiality of the cave, and the fact that the camera-friendly prime minister managed to have cameras around while meditating as well.
One user turned the photo of monk Modi into a heavy metal album cover.
Incensed that people found photos of Modi meditating funny, an user noted that Indira Gandhi had a photographer with her too when she visited Vaishno Devi cave in Jammu.
Fun and games aside, Opposition leaders were not amused by the images ofModi’s meditation exercises being broadcast.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury said in a tweet that the photos violated the Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct. Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien complained to the Election Commission about this.