New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday broke his silence on the ongoing controversy over late former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi using Indian Naval warship INS Viraat to vacation in the Lakshadweep. “Holiday on the INS Viraat? That’s crazy. Why would anyone holiday on an aircraft carrier? It’s not a cruise ship!”, Rahul told a leading national daily.
The Congress chief, however, admitted that he had been on Viraat with his father but that wasn’t a holiday. “I’ve been with my father on it when he was the PM. Of course, there are pictures. He had gone for an official visit … and I accompanied him,” Rahul said.
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He also accused PM Modi of being “obsessed” with his family. “I don’t think about my father, grandmother or great-grandfather as much as Mr Modi does. He thinks that that’s the place where he’s going to find his escape. Best of luck to him!” he asserted.
The Naval officers who were on board the ship that day had also dismissed PM Modi’s allegations. Former Navy chief Admiral (Retd) L Ramdas had issued a statement quashing the claim made by the Prime Minister. His letter in bold read, “I would like to state unequivocally that this was not the case.”
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.
Earlier on Wednesday, PM Modi had accused then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of using aircraft carrier INS Viraat and its personnel for vacations with his foreign in-laws. He had raked up the issue at a rally in New Delhi to counter the attack by Congress leaders who said that defence forces have been politicised by the BJP.
“Who has been treating the forces as personal property? …have you ever heard that a family goes on a warship for holiday? This has happened in our country. The ‘naamdar’ family used INS Viraat as personal property. They insulted it,” Modi had said
INS Viraat was withdrawn from its place of deployment and sent to fetch the in-laws of Rajiv Gandhi and taken to an island where nobody was there to welcome them and all arrangements for them were made by the personnel of the aircraft carrier, he had alleged.
The holiday continued not for one day but for 10 days during which the warship remained stationed there, Modi had claimed.