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Veteran Navy officers split over PM Modi’s INS Viraat charge on Rajiv Gandhi

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi misused INS Viraat as a ‘personal taxi’ for family holiday, former Navy Chief Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas refuted PM Modi’s claims.

Ramdas issued a statement that said: “I would like to state unequivocally, that this was not the case. Prime Minister and Mrs Gandhi were embarked on board INS Viraat off Trivandrum en route Lakshadweep. The PM was at Trivandrum as chief guest for the National Games prize distribution. 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 added that Gandhi had never used INS Viraat as his “personal taxi” for 10 days.

Former Commanding Officer of INS Viraat, Vinod Pasricha, too, has denied the allegations. Pasricha, who commanded INS Viraat in December 1987, has denied PM Modi’s claims that friends of the Gandhis and his Italian mother-in-law were with him on the warship. “Gandhi was visiting Lakshadweep on official work — a meeting of the Island Development Authority — not a family holiday. Accompanying him were his wife Sonia Gandhi, son Rahul Gandhi and a couple of IAS officers,” Pasricha said.

Denying that Amitabh Bachchan or Sonia Gandhi’s parents were on the warship, Pasricha said, “Other than the three people I told you, there was no one else… This politicisation of the Armed Forces is wrong and unacceptable”.

A retired IAS officer, Wajahat Habibullah, who was the then administrator of Lakshwadeep, stated that that INS Viraat was indeed stationed in Lakshwadeep but the Gandhis were not holidaying. He said, “INS Viraat was in the sea for the PM’s backup security.”

However, former Navy Commander (retd) VK Jaitly claimed that Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi used INS Viraat to holiday at Bangaram Island. Indian Navy resources were used extensively. I am a witness. I was posted on INS Viraat that time.”

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said PM Modi was running a falsehood campaign. He asked him to apologise to the nation. Pawan Khera, another spokesperson of Congress, said that PM Modi did not have anything to talk about. “Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been challenging him to debate on the Rafale, demonetisation, unemployment. But he does not have the courage to come on a debate on these issues,” he said. He alleged that PM Modi has spent Rs 2,200 crore on foreign visits.

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