Ex-Naval commanders vouch for INS Viraat in Rajiv Gandhi’s family holiday

INS Viraat
INS Viraat (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Did Rajiv Gandhi use India’s premier warship INS Viraat during his family vacation?  An India Today article of January 1988, providing a detailed account of the vacation on the Bangaram island of Lakshadweep, including the misuse of INS Viraat warship, is making rounds again in the social media. And it does not leave anything for speculation.

However, former navy chief, Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas, who joined Aam Aadmi Party post retirement, chose to defend the late prime minister, saying Rajiv Gandhi did nothing wrong as he was on an official tour.

The controversy over INS Viraat erupted when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charged former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of using INS Viraat for holidaying.

“INS Viraat was insulted by using it as a personal taxi. This happened when Rajiv and his family was out for a 10-day vacation. INS Viraat was deployed for securing our maritime boundary. But it was diverted to take the Gandhi family which was out for a vacation,” Modi had said, addressing a campaign rally at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan on April 8.

Now, former Navy Commander VK Jaitly (retired) and former Lieutenant Commander Harinder Sikka have come out strongly backing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charge.

But CDR Jaitly’s tweet repudiates Admiral Ramdas’s claim. “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,” Jaitly tweeted.

Taking his argument further, Jaitely has told Republic TV that the admiral’s cabin was converted as a room the Gandhis, who used INS Viraat to sail towards Lakshadweep and stayed overnight on the ship. He also revealed that several naval ships accompanied the aircraft carrier as the warship never sails alone.

Lieutenant Commander Harinder Sikka too told the TV channel that the naval officers were not happy over Gandhis using naval resources, but they remained quiet.

Referring to Sonia Gandhi as a foreign national, Lt CDR Sikka said. “A foreign national was roaming freely in the most-coveted warship. Control rooms were made open for civilians. Navy resources were used for holidaying. It was not right. We were furious but as serving officers, we could do nothing… We were helpless because we could not speak or raise objections. They would have booked us for mutiny.”

If anything, these conversations help understand the style functioning of political class belonging to privileged families.  And it would help discerning voters exercise their franchise wisely this poll season.

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