Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has been facing criticism from the opposition over he performing shastra puja (weapon worship) of the first Rafale fighter jet in France. Singh hit back at the Congress on Thursday saying that worshiping weapons during Vijaydashami is a tradition.
‘When I wrote Om on the Rafale jet, people said why did he write. I would like to ask Rahul Gandhi if not Om what should I have written on the aircraft,’ Singh was quoted as saying by news agency ANI at a rally in Haryana.
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.
‘It seems the Rafale deal is still hurting the BJP. Why else would Rajnath Singh go to France to receive the first jet?’ Gandhi had said.
In the run-up to this year’s Lok Sabha polls, Gandhi, then the president of the Congress, had attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale deal and alleged there were ‘irregularities’ in it.
Singh received the first Rafale jet from France on behalf of the Indian Air Force. At the handover ceremony for the fighter aircraft, he said it was a ‘historic’ moment for India. Singh performed a puja on the jet, inscribed it with an Om tilak 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 it ‘theatrics’. Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar drew a parallel between the Rafale shastra puja and the lemon and chilli hung by truck drivers to protect their vehicles from ‘evil eye’.
But there were different voices within the Congress over the isuue. Former Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam said ‘shastra puja’ cannot be called a ‘tamasha’ and is an old tradition. ‘The problem is that Kharge Ji is an atheist. In the Congress party, not everyone is an atheist,’ Nirupam had said.