With portals of three of the four holy shrines including Kedarnath set to be closed for the winters on October 21, the opposition Congress and the ruling BJP have engaged in a war of words over claims of bringing the famed Chardham Yatra back on track through ‘VIP visits’.The Congress has alleged that though the groundwork to ensure safe Chardham Yatra was done during its tenure, the ruling BJP at the Centre had “prevented” VIP visits to Uttarakhand. The Opposition party claimed that the BJP government in the hill state was now bringing in VIPs to shrines to publicise the message of safe pilgrimage.Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Kedarnath on October 20. He had also visited the Himalayan shrine in May during the opening of its portals. Prior to him, the then President Pranab Mukherjee, current President Ramnath Kovind and BJP national president Amit Shah visited the holy shrines.The Chardham Yatra had begun with the opening of the portals of Gangotri and Yamunotri on April 28, followed by that of Kedarnath on May 3 and Badrinath on May 6 this year. Over 21.22 lakh pilgrims have visited the four shrines till October 15. The portals of Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri will close down for winters on October 21, while those of Badrinath will close on November 19.“We welcome the VIP visits…but what’s sad is that when we (Congress government) had invited them to Uttarakhand, the (BJP-led) Centre prevented VIP visits to the state. Now, they (BJP government) are claiming credit that VIP visits have sent out a positive message for safe Chardham Yatra,” Congress leader Surendra Kumar said.“In fact, it was our government which had laid the foundation for reviving Chardham Yatra after the 2013 disaster…they (BJP) haven’t even been able to maintain what we had done,” said Kumar, spokesperson for former CM Harish Rawat.The ruling BJP, however, hit back at the Congress, saying that the allegations reflected its “narrow-minded thinking”. “Why do they have problems with the VIP visit? It (the visits) only shows that they and the masses at large have faith on our government’s efforts to carry out a safe pilgrimage,” BJP state president Ajay Bhatt told HT. He also alleged that the then Congress government had refused to allow PM Narendra Modi (who was then Gujarat’s CM) to visit the disaster-hit Kedarnath shrine in 2013. “They have no right to question others,” Bhatt said.