Haryana elections 2019: ‘If not Om, then what?’: Rajnath Singh jabs Rahul Gandhi on Rafale ‘shastra puja’
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had said that that the defence minister had gone to Paris to receive the first Rafale jet because there was “guilt” in the minds of BJP leaders over the multi-crore deal.Updated: Oct 17, 2019 21:45 IST
Defence minister Rajnath Singh hit back at the Opposition on Thursday for criticizing him over performing shastra puja (weapon worship) on the first Rafale fighter jet handed over to India in France this week. Worshipping weapons during the festive period is a tradition and there’s nothing wrong with the practice, Singh said.
“When I wrote Om on the Rafale jet, people said why did he write (the word). I would like to ask Rahul Gandhi if not Om, what should I have written on the aircraft,” Singh was quoted as saying at an election rally in Haryana by news agency ANI.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has said that the defence minister had gone to Paris to receive delivery of the first Rafale jet because there was “guilt” in the minds of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders over the Rs.59,000 crore deal for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets, manufactured by Dassault Aviation of France.
“It seems the Rafale deal is still hurting the BJP. Why else would Rajnath Singh go to France to receive the first jet,” Gandhi said, referring to the purchase in which he had, in the campaign for the April-May Lok Sabha polls, alleged corruption -- a charge denied by both the BJP and the Narendra Modi government.
Singh received the first Rafale jet from France on behalf of the Indian Air Force on Tuesday. At the handover ceremony, he said it was a “historic” moment for India. Singh performed a puja on the jet, inscribed it with an Om sign and then took a 35-minute sortie in the two-seater aircraft.
The opposition was quick to target Singh, with Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge calling the gesture an act of “theatrics”. Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar drew a parallel between the Rafale shastra puja and the lemon and chilli hung by truck drivers on their vehicles to ward off the “evil eye”.
Some Congress leaders saw it differently. Former Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam said shastra puja cannot be called a “tamasha” (hullabaloo) and was an old tradition. “The problem is that Kharge Ji is an atheist. In the Congress party, not everyone is an atheist,” Nirupam said.