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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

After Congress pans Rafale ‘shastra puja’, BJP’s Bofors counter

The Congress’s Mallikarjun Kharge called the whole thing Rafale ceremony a “tamasha (drama)” and compared it to how his own party never did such a thing when buying weapons.

india Updated: Oct 09, 2019 20:47 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Amit Shah in Kaithal, Haryana. (Photo @BJP4India)
Amit Shah in Kaithal, Haryana. (Photo @BJP4India)

Home Minister Amit Shah hit back at the Congress for criticising the “shastra puja” performed by Rajnath Singh during the handover ceremony of Rafale jet in France on Tuesday, saying the grand old party should introspect the things that need to be criticised.

“Rajnath Singh performed ‘shashtra puja’ of Rafale yesterday in France. The Congress did not like it. Is ‘shashtra pujan’ not performed on Vijayadashami? They should ponder over what needs to be criticised and what not,” said Amit Shah during a rally in Kaithal, Haryana. The state of Haryana goes to polls on October 21.

On the criticism, the BJP alleged that the Congress has a problem with Indian customs and traditions and that it is against modernisation of the Air Force.

Watch | Should ponder over what to criticise: Shah slams Cong over ‘Shastra Puja’ remark


In the run-up to national elections this summer, the Congress had claimed that there was corruption in the Rafale deal and alleged that the cost of 36 Rafale aircraft finalised by the Narendra Modi dispensation was higher than that negotiated by the previous UPA government.

“For a party used to worshipping Quattrocchi, ‘shastra puja’ is naturally a problem,” the BJP said in a tweet.

The BJP latched on to the Congress boasting about how it went about procuring weapons, like Bofors, and never making a great show of it. It thanked the Congress for reminding the nation once again about Bofors.

The Congress’s Mallikarjun Kharge called the whole Rafale ceremony a “tamasha (drama)” and compared it to how his own party never did such a thing when buying weapons.

“There is no need to do such ‘tamasha’. When we bought weapons — like the Bofors gun — no one went and brought them while showing off,” said Kharge.

The 1986 Bofors howitzer payoff scandal is one of the biggest corruption scandals in India in which then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and many others were accused of receiving kickbacks from the Swedish gun manufacturer and which was called India’s ‘Watergate’ by a New York court after it led to the fall of the Rajiv Gandhi government.

“Our Air Force officers judge whether they are good or not. These people go, show off, sit inside (the aircraft),” Kharge added.

France on Tuesday handed over to India its first Rafale fighter jet as part of a Rs 59,000-crore deal for 36 warplanes.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh performed “shastra pooja” at the induction ceremony in line with the Hindu tradition of warriors worshipping their weapons and arms on Dussehra. The minister wrote “Om” on the jet’s nose and placed a coconut, a laddoo and flowers on its front section as part of the ritual. The planes will fly into India only next year.

Soon after the handover ceremony, Singh changed into combat flight gear and flew a sortie in the Rafale jet.

“I had never imagined that I would be flown at supersonic speed; a very comfortable and smooth flight during which I was able to observe the many capabilities of the jet, its air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capabilities,” said the 68-year-old Singh while describing it as once in a lifetime experience.