New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on Wednesday mocked the ‘Shashtra Puja’ performed by Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in France on the occasion of handing over ceremony of first Rafale fighter jet to the Indian Air Force (IAF) and called it ‘tamasha’.
Soon after this comment, Mumbai Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam backed the BJP, commenting that ‘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 (Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge) is an atheist. In the Congress party, not everyone is an atheist”, Sanjay Nirupam was quoted as saying to ANI.
Invoking Indian traditions, the defence minister had performed a brief Shastra Puja (a custom followed during Dussehra) on the new aircraft as he emblazoned it with an ‘Om’ tilak and laid flowers and a coconut.
“There is no need to do such Tamasha (Shashtra Puja). When we bought weapons-like the Bofors gun previously purchased, no one went and brought them while showing off”, Kharge was quoted as saying. He added that when the Congress was in power it had refrained from showing off its defence acquisitions like Bofors.
Notably, the Bofors scam had rocked India in the 1980s. It involved a $1.4-billion howitzer deal between Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors and the Indian government signed in 1986. It was alleged that the Swedish company paid nearly $9 million to politicians, Congress leaders and bureaucrats.
Picking on it, the Karnataka BJP targeted the Congress, saying India suffered humiliation due to Bofors scam.
Meanwhile, while talking about the capability of the fighter jets, Kharge said that the Indian Air Force (IAF) officers will judge whether they are good or not.
India had signed a deal with the French government and Dassault Aviation in September 2016, to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets for over 7.8 billion euros to arrest the fall of combat squadrons and meet urgent requirements on the eastern and western fronts. The 36 Rafale jets in flyaway condition will be delivered to India before 2022. The first four Rafale jets will arrive in India by May 2020.