Former naval officers, including then commanding officer of INS Viraat, on Thursday dismissed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegation that former PM Rajiv Gandhi had used the now-decommissioned aircraft carrier as his “personal taxi”.
Retired Admiral L Ramdas issued a statement rejecting the PM’s claim that Rajiv Gandhi used INS Viraat as his “personal taxi” on a 10-day family vacation to Lakshadweep or that Sonia Gandhi’s relatives were on board the vessel. The incident dates back to December 1987.
In the statement, Admiral Ramdas said he has relied on responses from his colleagues, retired Admiral Arun Prakash, retired Vice Admirals Vinod Pasricha and Madanjit Singh. Admi-ral Ramdas then headed the Indian Navy’s Southern Command.
Vice Admiral Pasricha was then Captain and commanding officer INS Viraat. Admiral Prakash was commanding INS Vindhyagiri, which was accompanying INS Viraat and Vice Admiral Singh was commanding officer INS Ganga. Admiral Ramdas said he has also relied on a note from an officer who was then the naval officer in charge of Lakshadweep Islands.
Admiral Ramdas and Vice Admiral Pasricha were on board INS Viraat when it had hosted Rajiv Gandhi. They said he embarked INS Viraat off Trivandrum en route Lakshadweep. The former PM was at Trivandrum (now Thiruvananthapuram) as chief guest for the National Games prize distribution.
Vice Admiral Pasricha said Rajiv Gandhi was on official work, and his wife Sonia, son Rahul and a couple of IAS officers accompanied him. He denied that either actor Amitabh Bachchan or Sonia’s parents were on the warship, as Modi has claimed. “This politicisation of the armed forces is wrong and unacceptable.” Vice Admiral Pasricha said. He said the ex-PM visited the islands on a helicopter to attend a number of meetings.
On the other hand, the Congress said Modi was a “serial liar” and has made IAF jets his “own taxi”. Pointing to statements by retired naval officers, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said facts do not matter to Modi. ”
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.”
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