Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday defended the “shastra puja” (weapon worship) that he offered while receiving the first Rafale jet from France earlier this week, the Hindustan Times reported. Singh said he did what he thought was appropriate.

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge had called Singh’s puja a “tamasha”, or theatrics. Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar had compared Singh to truck drivers, who hang lemon and chilli on their new vehicles for good omen. Several people on social media had also criticised the defence minister’s move.

“I did what I thought was appropriate,” Singh told reporters. “This is our faith… I have believed since childhood that there is a super power.” The defence minister added that if someone from a different faith had worshipped as per their beliefs, he would not have objected to it.

Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah had lashed out at Kharge, claiming that the Congress does not respect Indian traditions.

Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman said offering “shastra puja” and placing a lemon under the jet’s wheels and a coconut on top is not superstition, but part of Indian culture, PTI reported. “So what is wrong? We strongly believe that you need to have the strength to be able to take such decisions and benefit the country,” Sitharaman told reporters in Pune. “You may not approve of it, you may think oh this is superstition, never mind, those who have faith, they do it. And I think he did everything right.”

Sitharaman also justified Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks at the inauguration of Delhi Metro’s Magenta line in August 2017, when he had ridiculed those who use lemons and chilli while inaugurating their vehicles. Sitharaman said Modi is also correct in his views, and added that the government has not “abandoned” science or scientific development.

Meanwhile, Major General Asif Ghafoor, the director-general of the Pakistan Army’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations, tweeted on Thursday: “Nothing wrong in #RafalePuja as it goes by the religion and that must be respected. Please’s not the machine alone which matters but competence, passion & resolve of the men handling that machine. Proud of our PAF [Pakistan Air Force] Shaheens.”

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