Rafale shastra pooja backfires

New Delhi: The Congress party on Wednesday went hammer and tongs at the ‘Shastra pooja’ conducted by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh while accepting the Rafale fighter aircraft in France.

Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge even dubbed it derisively as a ‘tamasha,’ insisting that they never resorted to such theatrics when they bought weapons like the Bofors gun.

Kharge was referring to the elaborate rituals in France -- when Rajnath emblazoned the aircraft with an 'Om' and offered flowers, coconut and lemons to ward off the evil eye.

Ironically, the response to the tirade came from a Congressman Sanjay Nirupam, who said that the ceremony was rooted in Indian tradition.

Nirupam, who recently threatened to quit the party, described Kharge as an atheist and said that people like him do not articulate the party's viewpoint.

"'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 was quoted as saying by a news portal.

Nirupam possibly took a cue from BJP chief Amit Shah who said earlier in the day in Kaithal (Haryana) that the Congress party was against Indian traditions.

"Defence Minister Rajnath Singh performed 'Shashtra Pujan' of Rafale. Congress did not like it. Is 'Shashtra Pujan' not performed on Vijayadashami? They should ponder over what needs to be criticised and what not," Shah said while addressing a rally.

The BJP's official Twitter handle also had digs at the opposition party, "Congress has problems with Air Force modernisation, Indian customs and traditions.

For a party used to worshiping Quattrocchi, 'Shastra Puja' is naturally a problem." But that was not the end of the debate. Congress leader Udit Raj, a former minister of the BJP, also took a dig at Rajnath Singh's action, questioning what the world would think of India after such a "superstitious" show.

In a Hindi post on Twitter, he said: The Rafale jet belongs to France. While being inducted into the Air Force, it was protected with nimbu-nariyal (lemon-coconut). What would the world be thinking?’’