Responding to Congress’ divided opinion on Defence Minister Rajnath Singh performing ‘Shastra puja’ of the first Rafale fighter jet plane in France on Tuesday, 8 October, Singh on Thursday said, “it must not have been everybody's opinion,” ANI reported.
“I did what I thought was appropriate. This is our faith that there is a super power and I have believed in it since childhood. I feel there must have been division over the issue in Congress too, it must not have been everybody's opinion,” ANI quoted Rajnath Singh as saying.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, replying to a tweet that took a jibe at the customs, came in support of the defence minister and said, “Raksha Mantri is just following customs.”
On Wednesday, while AICC General Secretary Mallikarjun Kharge called it a ‘tamasha’ (theatrics), senior Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam said Kharge is an atheist and his view is not necessarily the party’s view.
Slamming the episode, Kharge had said that the Congress did not show off when they bought weapons like the Bofors gun.
“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,” he told ANI.
“These people go, show off, sit inside (the aircraft),” he said, referring to the sortie Rajnath took in the aircraft after performing the rituals, adding that the Indian Air Force (IAF) officers will judge whether the jets are good or not.
Asked to react on Kharge’s comments, Nirupam said that they should not be taken as the party’s view.
“Shastra puja cannot be called a ‘tamasha’. There has been an old tradition of shastra puja in our country. The problem is that Kharge Ji is an atheist. In the Congress party, not everyone is an atheist,” Nirupam said.
Kharge’s comments had drawn ire of the Bharatiya Janata Party, with party chief Amit Shah attacking the Congress at an election rally in Haryana.
“Should the shastra pujan tradition be observed or not? Should we keep this tradition alive or not?” he asked the gathering. “Rajnath Singh ji performed shastra puja in France but the Congress people felt very bad about this too,” he said.
Singh attended the handover ceremony along with his French counterpart Florence Parly at aircraft maker Dassault Aviation facility in Merignac, southwestern France where the Rafale multi-role fighter jets were formally handed over to India.
The minister performed a shastra puja on the new aircraft as he emblazoned it with an ‘Om’ tilak and laid flowers and a coconut, just before he was to take off in it for a sortie in the newly-acquired two-seater jet.
Singh, who changed into combat flight gear for the sortie after Puja, said the aircraft will enhance the Indian Air Force combat capability massively - intended only for self-defence.
“We do not purchase arms and other defence equipments to threaten any country but to increase our capabilities and strengthen our defences,” 68-year-old Singh said.
“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,” he said, describing his sortie as a memorable and once in a lifetime experience.