INS Vikramaditya: It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s day at sea, his first visit to a weapons platform and he heard slogans he would have normally listened to at his political rallies.
“Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi ki jai (Hail Prime Minister Narendra Modi),” was a slogan that came to him from across the waves of the Arabian Sea as he took the salute of “steam pass” aboard INS Vikramaditya, India’s most powerful warship, off the Goa coast.
Modi, who dedicated the warship to the nation Saturday, took keen interest in briefings given to him and braved the rain to witness the demonstration of naval prowess lined up for him.
Interactive and communicative, Modi seemingly had quite a few queries for senior navy officers including its chief R.K. Dhowan in the nearly four hours he spent on the ship.
Navy personnel were hoping for the weather to be sunny during Modi’s visit to the warship but it was not to be. The weather, which was windy and partially sunny in the morning, turned cloudy as the demonstration began with the firing of anti-submarine rockets by two stealth vessels.
The 44,500-tonne INS Vikramaditya was operating in the sea along with 10 other frontline warships of the Navy’s western fleet, considered its sword arm.
The huge warship kept pace alongside the other moving vessels on the choppy sea when the drizzle turned into a shower that lashed the deck.
Modi did not go inside in a hurry and went in only after the shower became too heavy. The air power demonstration was interrupted by rain and the expected landing of a MIG 29K, a potent fourth generation fighter jet, did not take place.
The fighter aircraft, however, performed several other maneuvres. Apart from MiG 29K, Sea Harriers, long range maritime patrol anti-submarine warfare aircraft, Dornier aircraft and Kamov and sea king helicopters showed their prowess during the air power display.
Modi came on to the stage erected for him a third time after the rain stopped to witness the “steam past”. As he took the salute, navy personnel aboard vessels going in a straight formation in front of INS Vikramaditya hailed him with shouts of “Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi ki jai”.
Modi heard similar slogans inside INS Vikramaditya also. Naval personnel raised slogans of “INS Vikramaditya ki jai”, “Bharat Mata ki jai” and “Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi ki jai” after the conclusion of his speech to them.
Navy officials said it is normal for the personnel to greet a dignitary by raising slogans hailing him.
In his interaction with the officers and sailors onboard, Modi congratulated them for operationalising the INS Vikramaditya in a short period. The carrier was commissioned in Russia last November.
Modi was presented a replica of INS Vikramaditya by the Navy.
Modi, who earlier went inside a MIG 29K, took his time examining the panels of the fighter jet.
Dressed in his trademark kurta churidar and a blue waistcoat, Modi asked questions of the pilot as he examined the narrow cockpit after reaching it with relative ease.
However, it was a bit of struggle for him while coming down but he managed without any help.
In a gesture of greeting to the mediapersons present on the aircraft carrier, Modi smiled and waved the blue naval cap he was wearing.
Navy personnel had a sense of anticipation over Modi’s arrival for dedicating the warship to the nation.
“This is a long awaited event for us. This is India’s pride,” a senior official told IANS.
The official said that it was not usual for a prime minister to come for “a day at sea” so early in his term in office.
Modi’s speech, which focused on the need to augment self-reliance in defence and the new government’s thrust to improve security, appeared to have made an impact on navy personnel.
“He has holistically put across issues which occur to me in bits and pieces,” said a senior officer not willing to be quoted.
Modi’s visit to INS Vikramaditya was his first to an operational military platform after assuming office last month. He used a helicopter to travel to and from Goa to the carrier.
The western fleet warships that demonstrated manoeuvres included the country’s other aircraft carrier INS Viraat, destroyers, stealth frigates, guided missile frigates and fleet tanker.