Rafale delivery: Congress, BJP trade barbs over Rajnath’s France visit

Rajnath Singh performs 'Shastra Puja' on Rafale fighter aircraft in Paris.

The Congress and BJP on Wednesday traded barbs over Defence Minister Rajnath Singh receiving the first of the 36 Rafale fighter jets in France on Tuesday.

Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge accused Singh of indulging in "drama" by personally taking delivery of the aircraft, arguing no minister has done such things in the past.

The BJP hit back with Home Minister Amit Shah saying that the Congress is upset over the 'Shastra Puja' performed by Rajnath Singh when he was handed over the first Rafale fighter in France on Tuesday.

"Rajnath Singh-ji performed Shastra Puja in France but people in the Congress felt very bad about this too. Should the Shastra Puja tradition be observed or not? Should we keep this tradition alive or not?... But the Congress is opposing this too,” PTI quoted Shah as saying at an election campaign rally in Haryana.

Talking to The Indian Express, Kharge said, “the Rafale aircraft has not landed in our country yet... usually people receive here and then they perform puja and other things. Going there... when the aircraft is not yet ready to come to India... this is not good. Just to get publicity they are doing all these things... this is just drama.”

“Which Defence Minister has in the past gone to another country and taken delivery of a weapon or an aircraft. Generally our Air Force people go, find out whether the weapon is as per our requirement... as per the specifications... this is the job of the Air Force... why should he take credit by doing all this?... it is shown on television” the Congress leader said.

Meanwhile, former Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam hit out at Kharge, who is also the AICC general secretary in charge of Maharasthra. Nirupam, who is not on good terms with Kharge now, said ‘Shastra Puja’ cannot be called ‘tamasha’ (theatrics). “There is a tradition of Shastra Puja in our country. The problem is that Kharge is an atheist. But not everyone in the Congress party is an atheist. Not everyone in the country is an atheist... his thinking cannot be imposed on peope who believe in puja,” he said.

When his remarks triggered a row, Nirupam tweeted, “I am supporting shastra puja not BJP. Please don’t read too much between the lines. Indian traditions and cultural heritage are far far bigger than any party or any individual.”