Rajnath Singh, criticised for Rafale Shastra Puja, points to divide in Congress
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s shastra puja (weapon worship) on the first Rafale fighter jet that he had formally received from Dassault Aviation in France had sparked off a huge war of words. Back in the country, the defence minister responded to the criticism, asserting that he did what he believed was appropriate.
“I do not think that anyone would have objected to someone worshipping,” he said.
Singh had taken delivery of the first of the 36 Rafale fighter jets at a ceremony in France’s Merignac this week. Singh later performed puja on the aircraft, emblazoned it with an Om tilak and laid flowers and a coconut, just before he took a 35-minute sortie in the two-seater jet.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge called Singh’s puja as “tamasha” (theatrics). At a Press conference in the run-up to Maharashtra state elections, Nationalist Congress Party boss Sharad Pawar mocked the Rafale shastra puja and drew a parallel between the union minister and truck drivers, who hang lemon and chilli on their new trucks believing it protects vehicle from evil eye.
Watch: Rajnath Singh defends Rafale ‘shastra puja’, slams critics
Asked about the many barbs flung at him, the soft-spoken minister stood his ground.
“I did what I thought was appropriate. This is our faith… I have believed since childhood that there is a super power,” the minister said.
Singh elaborated that if someone from a different faith would have worship in accordance with his religion - whether it was a Muslim or a Christian - he certainly wouldn’t have objected to it.
Kharge’s initial jibe at Rajnath Singh - the Congress leader later issued a clarification - did not go unchallenged. Home Minister Amit Shah rushed to Singh’s defence and to launch a counter-attack at the Congress. So did Congress’ Sanjay Nirupam.
Singh alluded to this divergence of views within the Congress to insist that he did not believe that there was unanimity within the opposition party over the puja.
Rajnath Singh did receive support from an unexpected quarter: Pakistan Army spokesperson Asif Ghafoor.
Tweeting from his personal handle, Major General Asif Ghafoor said there was nothing wrong as it was a matter of religion.”It’s not the machine alone which matters but competence, passion & resolve of the men handling that machine. Proud of our PAF Shaheens,” tweeted Asif Ghafoor on Thursday.
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