Slamming Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's 'Shastra Puja' of Indian Air force (IAF)'s first Rafale jet, Congress senior leader Salman Khurshid, on Wednesday questioned why ceremony of only one religion was observed. He claimed that it would have been better if the jet had been blessed according to all religious customs. He added that the Indian Army accommodated all religious beliefs in the country. Slamming the inconsistency of the BJP government, he questioned why was the same not followed outside India.
"The Defence Minister went to Rafale. Rafale has not come to India, there is still some time for that. But the Defence Minister went there, which is good. It would have been better that Rafale would have got the blessings of all religions, rather than Rafale being blessed with one religious power. If you go to any cantonment of the Indian Army, there is a temple with a pujari, a masjid with an imam, a gurudwara with a pujari and a church with a priest. Hence, if we make facilities for all religions with respect to the Army in India, when we go out why is same not being followed?," he said to ANI.
On the contrary, former Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge slammed the ritual itself, calling it a farce. He said it was done to emotionally move people. Pointing out that the deal has been in the works for 25 years, he said India had still not received the jet. He also slammed the BJP of sending the Defence Minister for the handing over rather than sending Defence Marshalls which is the norm.
"There was no need to create such a spectacle with respect to Rafale. When we purchase any gun -be it Bofors, or MiG and noe Rafale. Nobody brought it by going there and creating a spectacle. The Defence Marshalls or commanders, they usually check whether it is good or bad. These people (BJP) have gone there and why? Delivery is still six months away. This is all done for an emotional show to the people. This deal has been in the works for 25 years. When we (UPA) were buying it cheap, thy (BJP) had protested against it," he said to ANI.
Earlier on Tuesday, after being handed over IAF's first Rafale jet, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, on Tuesday, performed a Shastra puja at the Merignac air base in France. Visuals showed the Defence Minister marking the aircraft with the auspicious symbol - 'Aum' with vermillion. Visuals also showed a coconut is placed on the wing of the aircraft and holy turmeric threads tied around the wing of the aircraft. This puja was performed on the occasion of Dussehra, marking the end of Navaratri festival.
The Defence Minister also undertook a sortie in IAF's new Rafale jet at the Merignac airbase in France, guided by Philippe Duchateau - head test pilot of Dassault Aviation. The sortie lasted for 35 minutes and the Defence Minister termed it an 'unforgettable' experience. Prior to this, Singh officially took over India's first Rafale jet at the Merignac airbase from the French Defence Minister in Bordeaux, France. The handing over ceremony was preceded by Singh's 35-minute long meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at Elysee Palace, Paris. He also met with his French counterpart in Paris.