(Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA / AFP)
(Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA / AFP)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegation that the late Rajiv Gandhi used INS Viraat as ‘personal taxi on a family vacation’ has led to a political storm. Now two former Navy officials have backed the claims made by Narendra Modi.

Commander V K Jaitly, who was posted on INS Viraat at that time, backed PM Modi’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,” Jaitly tweeted.

Talking to Republic TV, Commander VK Jaitly added, “I was witness to the entire episode. A room was readied in the admiral’s cabin for the Gandhis. It’s true that the Gandhis used INS Viraat to head towards Lakshadweep. It’s not a small thing. Vice Admiral Pasricha was our commanding officer. He would know about the foreigners. The warship was anchored off Lakshadweep. It’s was not a small fleet. We were told they were coming to ship and that it would sail to Bangaram. One admiral room was readied. The ship went to Kochi to pick them up. They stayed overnight. After that, they left towards Lakshadweep on a chopper. They did stay on a ship. The ship anchored nearby Bangaram. The aircraft carrier never sails alone. Several Naval ships accompanied. Resources were used.”

On the other hand, former Navy officer, Lieutenant Commander Harinder Sikka told Times Now, that the Gandhis using naval resources was not appreciated by the naval officers but they were forced to remain quiet. “We were helpless because we could not speak or raise objections. They would have booked us for mutiny,” “Prime Minister in INS Viraat is ok but his wife was a foreign national and sensitive information was at stake. No one, even Navy officers, was not allowed inside but here they were holidaying. I raised the issue before the Commanding Officer and I was asked to shut up. He is the Prime Minister. Even if you use a pin from a Navy ship, it has to be docketed.” Sikka told the news channel.

This comes after former navy chief Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas defended late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Ramdas, who was the Southern Navy Commander then and was also onboard the INS Viraat, in a statement, said “no foreigners visited INS Viraat and that the prime minister and his wife were onboard the aircraft carrier” following all official protocol.

PM Modi, at a rally on Wednesday, accused the Gandhi family of using warship INS Viraat as its “personal taxi” for a holiday when Rajiv Gandhi was at the helm, launching a fresh attack on the late Congress leader days after throwing the “bhrashtachari no 1” barb at him. “Ever imagined that a premier warship of the Indian armed forces could be used as a taxi for a personal holiday? One dynasty did it,” PM Modi had asked.

(Inputs from Agencies)