Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the late Rajiv Gandhi of using India’s premier warship, INS Virat, as his “personal taxi” to go for a vacation to a special island with his family friends when he was Prime Minister of the country. Modi was addressing an election rally at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi. Modi alleged that the naval vessel had been deployed to secure the maritime boundary when it was recalled and made to serve the Gandhi family for 10 days. He added that an Indian Air Force helicopter and other government paraphernalia were also put at the service of the Gandhi family during that period.
The allegation came on the heels of Modi’s charge that Rajiv Gandhi had died as “corrupt number one”. Modi made the charge after he claimed he was often “abused” and told that the defence forces were not his “personal property”. The PM said those who ask for votes in the name of their ancestors get rattled when someone talks about their deeds. “Have you ever heard of anyone going on a family vacation on a naval warship? This has happened in our own country. The ‘naamdaar’ Congress family used INS Virat as its personal taxi and insulted it,” Modi alleged.
Modi said, “Not only was the Gandhi family picked up by INS Virat and taken to a special island, but the warship also stayed with them for 10 days. Rajiv Gandhi was accompanied by his in-laws who had come from Italy. The question is whether the security of the country was not compromised by taking foreigners on board a warship.”
The warship was decommissioned in 2017. According to a report, the island was Bangaram in the Lakshwadeep archipelago. Among those who joined the then PM and his family on this trip in December 1987 were Sonia Gandhi’s sister, brother-in-law and their children, her mother, four friends of Rahul and Priyanka, and actor Amitabh Bachchan, his wife, Jaya, and their children. The daughter of Amitabh’s brother, Ajitabh, was also with them.
Ex-Navy chief denies allegations
Meanwhile, former Navy chief Admiral (retd) L Ramdas as well as a former commanding officer of the aircraft carrier refuted the allegations. Vice Admiral (Retd) Vinod Pasricha, who was commanding the ship during the then prime minister’s visit, said all protocols were followed during Gandhi’s official trip in 1987, adding no foreigners or other guests were present. “The claim was totally wrong,” said Vice Admiral (retd) Pasricha.
However, another former Navy Commander (retd) V.K. Jaitly, in a tweet, said “Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi used INS Viraat for travel to celebrate their holidays at Bangaram island. Indian Navy resources were used extensively. I am a witness. I was posted on INS Viraat that time.” Ramdas, who was the Southern Navy Commander, in a statement, said no foreigners visited INS Viraat and that Rajiv Gandhi and his wife were onboard the aircraft carrier following all official protocol. “Prime Minister and Mrs Gandhi were embarked on board INS Viraat off Trivandrum enroute Lakshwadeep. The Prime Minister was at Trivandrum as chief guest for the National Games prize distribution,” the former Navy Chief said.
“He was going to Lakshadweep on official duty, to chair a meeting of IDA (Islands Development Authority). This meeting is held alternately in Lakshadweep and in Andamans,” he said.
Admiral Ramdas added, “There were no foreigners with them. I, as Flag officer Commanding in Chief, Southern Naval Command, based in Cochin, also boarded INS Viraat.”