Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday began his two-day tour of politically significant Malwa-Nimar region in the poll-bound Madhya Pradesh by offering prayers at the famous Mahakaleshwar Temple, devoted to Lord Shiva.
Clad in a 'dhoti', he performed 'puja' at the ancient temple, which is one of the 12 'Jyotirlingas' (special shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva) in the country.
It was Mr Gandhi's second visit to the shrine. He had last visited the temple in 2010, a party leader said.
Wearing cream-coloured 'shola' (dhoti called in temple dialect), the Congress chief entered the main part of the temple, along with state party unit president Kamal Nath and campaign committee chairman Jyotiraditya Scindia.
The 48-year-old Amethi lawmaker performed the puja amid chanting of 'mantras' (hymns) by temple priests.
Mr Gandhi's grandmother and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, his father Rajiv Gandhi and mother Sonia Gandhi too had visited the temple in 1979, 1987 and 2008, respectively to pay their obeisance to Lord Shiva, state Congress spokesman Pankaj Chaturvedi told PTI.
Mr Gandhi performed the puja of Lord Mahakal (Shiva) for around half an hour, he said.
The Congress, had last year, said Mr Gandhi was an ardent "Shiv bhakt". In August this year, he had undertaken Kailash Mansarovar Yatra to seek blessings of Lord Shiva.
BJP president Amit Shah had visited the temple on July 14. He had then flagged off the 'Jan Ashirwad Yatra' of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Madhya Pradesh, where the Congress is in opposition since 2003, will go to polls on November 28.
During his two-day tour, the Congress chief will visit Malwa-Nimar, a politically crucial region which accounts for 66 of the 230 assembly seats in the state.
In the 2013 assembly elections, the BJP had won 56 seats in the region. The Congress had managed to bag just nine seats, while one went to an Independent.
During his tour, Mr Gandhi would address rallies in Jhabua, Indore, Dhar, Khargone and Mhow, and also take part in a road show in Indore.
He will also address a rally in Ujjain on Monday afternoon.
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