Congress and the BJP engaged in a war of words on Wednesday over Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visiting France to receive the first Rafale fighter jet and performing Shastra Puja on the aircraft, with opposition party leaders slamming it as “drama” and the saffron party hitting back with a ‘Bofors’ barb.
At a ceremony in Merignac (France) on Tuesday, Rajnath Singh formally took delivery of the first of the 36 long-awaited French-made aircraft acquired by the Indian Air Force. He performed puja on the new aircraft as he emblazoned it with an ‘Om’ tilak and laid flowers and a coconut, just before he took a sortie in the two-seater jet.
The Opposition party accused the BJP of politicising a defence acquisition.
Reacting to the development, Congress leader Rashid Alvi said, “This is a government of dramatics. You are going to France and performing puja, wasn’t the Rafale jet coming to India? You are going to a foreign country and doing all this drama.”
After his reported comments terming Singh’s Shastra Puja as “tamasha” (theatrics) drew sharp responses, Congress leader Mallikarjuna Kharge said he was not referring to the Puja but was questioning as to 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 Army that deal with it and why are politicians getting involved,” he told PTI.
Kharge said 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 and therefore “why should they do this (Puja) there, they can do it when it comes here”.