Special budget for religious tourism, free pilgrimage for the elderly: religious pressure of Congress in Himachal manifest

Congress on Saturday went to great lengths to make a religious pitch in its election manifesto in Himachal Pradesh, rolling out ambitious promises ranging from a free pilgrimage every four years for all the elderly to a specific budget for the promotion of religious tourism in every meeting constituency.

The manifesto of the party released in Rajiv Bhawan in Shimla here contains a self-contained segment titled – “Devsthan and Tirth Yatras” (Temples and Pilgrimages).

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The loftiest promise in this section is a pledge of free pilgrimage to a shrine of choice for all the elderly in the state, with Congress pledging to pay the bill for such a trip every four years.

It contains a provision for accompanying persons to accompany the elderly on such trips.

AICC, in charge of Himachal Rajeev Shukla, also announced a “Dev Bhumi Vikas Nishi”, a fund that involves allocating budgets for each municipal constituency to promote religious tourism.

The series of promises under the religion segment by the Congress comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration of the large Mahakal temple complex in Ujjain, his personal visit to oversee development work in Kedarnath and Badrinath and his presence on Diwali night in the Ram temple Ayodhya.

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Top BJP leaders, including Amit Shah and JP Nadda, are also raising the issue in their polls, asking people whether Congress has ever bothered to renovate temples in the country, which the BJP has done under Prime Minister Modi.

Congress, which likely made its first pledge in an election manifesto, has further pledged to double its annual contribution to state-sponsored temples.

Emoluments for Temple Priests will also be increased to double what they are getting now.

The manifesto also states that tourist circuits will be developed to boost religious tourism and that a special budget will be set up for the restoration and modernization of temples in the state.

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