A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi of using INS Viraat for his ‘personal holiday trips’, former chief of the Naval Staff Admiral L Ramdas (retd) refuted Modi’s claim and said no ships were specially diverted for the personal use of Gandhi family.
In a press statement today, Admiral L Ramdas (retd) said: “No ships were specially diverted for the personal use of the Gandhi family. Only one small helicopter was left at Kavratti to meet any emergency medical requirements of the PM and his wife.”
“I am drawing on written responses from V Admiral Pasricha – then Capt and commanding officer INS Viraat, Admiral Arun Prakash – commanding INS Vindhyagiri, which was accompanying INS Viraat, and Vice Admiral Madanjit Singh – commanding officer of INS Ganga. I am also referring to a note from an officer who was then the Naval Officer in Charge of Lakshwadeep islands,” the statement further read.
The press statement, which highlights the events of December 1987, said that Rajiv Gandhi and his wife Sonia Gandhi were on board INS Viraat and enroute Lakshadweep to chair a meeting of the Islands Development Authority from Trivandrum. Ramdas said that he had hosted a dinner for the Gandhis onboard INS Viraat, adding that there were no other parties or any other ship during that time.
He also wrote that there is a photograph to confirm this.The statement also said that the then prime minister and his wife went on short trips to some of the islands to meet the locals by helicopter but Rahul never accompanied them.
Retired Admiral Ramdas’ statement comes a day after PM Modi, in his election rally in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, had claimed that the Gandhi family used INS Viraat as its ‘personal taxi’ for a holiday when Rajiv Gandhi was at the helm, launching a fresh attack on the late Congress leader days after throwing the ‘bhrashtachari no 1’ barb at him.
“Friends, have you ever heard of anyone going on a holiday with his family on a warship? Don’t be surprised at this question. This has happened, in our country. The biggest namdaar family of the Congress had used INS Viraat, the country’s pride, as its personal taxi,” Modi said.
“INS Viraat was securing the maritime boundaries at the time. But it was sent to fetch the Gandhi family going on vacation… In the list of holidayers were members of his sasuraal. Was the country’s security jeopardised or not?” Modi added.
Congress leaders, including its president Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, have hit out at Modi for his barb at their father, who was India’s prime minister between 1984-89.
Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala cited a media report to attack the prime minister. “Distraction and fakery is your last resort. You have made Indian Air Force jets your own Taxi! You have paid as low as Rs 744 for using IAF jets for election trips!” Surjewala tweeted.