Rajiv was not holidaying onboard INS Viraat: Navy veterans counters Modi’s charge
New Delhi, May 09: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's accusation that former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi used India's aircraft carrier INS Viraat for holiday trip has stoked a controversy with a series of claims and counter-claims.
Refuting the allegation, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said retired Indian Navy Vice Admiral Vinod Pasricha has clarified that the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was on an official visit on INS Viraat and not on a vacation.
"But facts don't matter to Modi. He doesn't have anything to talk about his own achievements. Rahul Gandhi has been challenging him for last six months now to debate on Rafale deal, demonetisation, unemployment, but Modi does not have the courage to speak," he said at a press conference.
"We are now hearing that. Modi ji tells us that 30 years ago Rajiv Gandhi went for a holiday in INS Viraat. Prime Minister is a serial liar. A senior official has exposed his lies today. Vice Admiral (retd) Vinod Pasricha appeared on channels some time back and stated that this is a lie and the then PM was on an official visit and not on a holiday," he said.
Wajahat Habibullah, who was the then administrator of Lakshwadeep, has also refuted PM Modi's claim, saying that while INS Viraat was stationed in Lakshwadeep but the Gandhis were not holidaying aboard the ship.
"INS Viraat was in the sea for the PM's backup security. The Prime Minister needs backup security and in the middle of the ocean, there's no other option other than warships," habibullah was quoted by India Today as saying.
"Rajiv Gandhi went to Lakshwadeep on an official meeting and decided to stay back when his guests also joined him. No foreigner or even the guests were allowed onboard INS Viraat," he added.
However, Commander V K Jaitly, who was posted on INS Viraat at that time, backed the PM's claim, saying that the warship was used by Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi to "celebrate their holidays".
"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," he tweeted.
On Wednesday, addressing an election rally at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan, Modi said, "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."
"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 had asked.
India is in the midst of a general election with five phases of voting completed and two phases still to go. Results of the polls are expected on 23 May.