Published On : Thu, Oct 10th, 2019

Sharad Pawar joins Rafale ‘shastra puja’ row

NCP leader Sharad Pawar has joined the debate over the ‘shastra puja’ performed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in front of the Rafale fighter jet handed over by France on Tuesday.

Pawar, while acknowledging the Rs 59,000 crore deal was in India’s best interests, was left bewildered by the hanging of lemon and chili from the multi-million dollar advanced multirole fighter jet that is widely regarded as one of the deadliest in its class.

“I have no doubts on the decision taken for national security. But, I don’t know if it is true, but what can one say when lemon-chili is hung on Rafale aircraft with the idea of protecting it from curse just like it’s hung on a newly-purchased truck,” Pawar was quoted as saying by newsmedia.

Sharad Pawar’s sarcastic jibe comes a day after his “Abhi toh main jawan hoon” jibe at BJP leaders who accused him of being too old for politics and claimed the NCP-Congress alliance in Maharashtra had given up hope of unseating the BJP-Shiv Sena combine in assembly elections on October 21.

On Tuesday, after taking formal handover of the first of 36 Rafale jets meant for the Indian Air Force, Rajnath Singh performed a ‘shastra puja’.

In front of a gathering that included French Defence Minister Florence Parly, Singh wrote the Sanskrit word “Om” on the body of the aircraft, sprinkled it with flowers and offered up a coconut. Finally, he placed a lime in front of the wheels – a practice meant to ward off evil – before flying off on a sortie in the jet.

Singh’s actions prompted criticism from opposition leaders, with Congress politician Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, calling it “tamasha”.