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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Congress, BJP spar over Rafale ‘shastra puja’

india Updated: Oct 09, 2019 23:50 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

New Delhi: The Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday got into a war of words over defence minister Rajnath Singh’s shastra puja (weapon worship) on the first Rafale fighter jet delivered to India in France on Tuesday.

While Congress leaders called it a “drama” and accused the BJP of politicising the defence acquisition, Union home minister Amit Shah defended Singh, saying the ceremony was in keeping with Indian culture and traditions.

Speaking at a rally in Haryana, Shah took potshots at the Congress, saying the opposition party should ask whether or not shashtra puja is performed on Vijayadashami and ponder over what needs to be criticised and what not.

At a ceremony in Merignac (France) on Tuesday, Singh took delivery of the first of the 36 long-awaited French-made Rafale jets. He performed puja on the aircraft, emblazoned it with an Om tilak and laid flowers and a coconut, just before he took a sortie in the two-seater jet.

After his reported comments terming Singh’s puja as “tamasha” (theatrics) provoked strong responses from the BJP and within his party, Congress general secretary Mallikarjuna Kharge clarified his statement. He insisted he was not referring to the puja but was questioning why politicians were getting involved in Rafale delivery and other technical matters.

“I only said that in Rafale and other technical matters, it is the Air Force and the Army that deal with them and why are politicians getting involved,” Kharge said.

He insisted that he was not criticising shastra puja and his point was that the aircraft will still take at least 6-8 months to come to India. “Therefore, why should they do puja there. They can do it when it comes here.”

Kharge’s reported comments prompted disgruntled Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam to say that shastra puja cannot be called a tamasha as it is a tradition of this country.

“I know Kharge ji is an atheist. He does not believe in praying, we know. But not everyone in the Congress like him is an atheist,” Nirupam said.

First Published: Oct 09, 2019 23:50 IST

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