Admiral Ramdas, others reject PM’s allegation

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 5/10/2019 12:44:21 PM

‘Rajiv used INS Viraat as personal taxi’

JAMMU, May 9: Former Navy chief Admiral (retired) L Ramdas, joined by his three other colleagues viz., Admiral (retired) Arun Prakash, Vice Admiral (retired) Vinod Pasricha and Vice Admiral Madanjit Singh, Thursday rejected Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegation that former Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi used INS Viraat as a ‘personal taxi.”
Former Navy Chief Ramdas, who was the Southern Navy Commander, in a statement, said no foreigners visited INS Viraat and that Rajiv Gandhi and his wife were onboard the aircraft carrier following all official protocol.
Ramdas said that he was issuing statement after collating email responses from his colleagues who were serving in the Western Fleet during the events referred to.
“Yesterday at Ramlila grounds, Delhi, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi made a speech in which said that the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had used Indian Naval Ship Viraat for a personal cruise lasting ten days to Lakshadweep Islands , with his family and the members of the family of his wife Sonia Gandhi. Presumably, his comments were based on a report by Anita Pratap on India Today. I would like to state unequivocally, that this was not the case,” Admiral Ramdas said.
“Prime Minister and Mrs Gandhi were embarked on board INS Viraat off Trivandrum enroute Lakshwadeep. The Prime Minister was at Trivandrum as chief guest for the National Games prize distribution,” the former Navy Chief said. “He was going to Lakshadweep on official duty, to chair a meeting of IDA (Islands Development Authority). This meeting is held alternately in Lakshadweep and in Andamans,” he said.
Admiral Ramdas, added, “There were no foreigners with them. I, as Flag officer Commanding in Chief, Southern Naval Command, based in Cochin, also boarded INS Viraat. Four other ships were with INS Viraat as part of Fleet Exercises. As FoC in C, I hosted a dinner for them on board INS Viraat. There were no other parties held on board INS Viraat or for that matter any other ship in our fleet during that time.”
While giving a sequence of events as recalled by those present at an event which happened 32 years ago, Admiral Ramdas said that he was drawing on written responses from V Admiral Pasricha – then Captain and commanding officer INS Viraat, Admiral Arun Prakash – commanding INS Vindhyagiri, which was accompanying INS Viraat, and Vice Admiral Madanjit Singh – commanding officer of INS Ganga. “I am also referring to a note from an officer who was then the Naval Offcier in Charge of Lakshwadeep islands,” he said.
“They did, of course, visit some of the islands on short trips by helicopter to meet local officials as also the people there. (PM is authorised to travel along with his spouse by service aircraft on official duties). From what I know only Rajiv and Sonia went ashore by helicopter and Rahul never accompanied them. During his visit to Bangaram on the last day, a few naval divers had been sent ashore for the PM’s safety. These meetings and functions were in December 1987. The western fleet had planned its naval exercises with the aircraft carrier much in advance in the yearly exercise programme to be held in that part of the Arabian Sea. This was an opportunity for the officers and men to interact with their PM. He addressed the men, had ‘bada khana’ as per Naval custom. I then hosted a dinner for the Prime Minister that night. And there is a photograph to confirm this. No ships were specially diverted for the personal use of the Gandhi family. Only one small helicopter was left at Kavratti to meet any emergency medical requirements of the PM and his wife. I have nothing more to add,” Admiral Ramdas said.
Earlier Vice Admiral (retired) 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. However, another former Navy Commander (retd) VK Jaitly, in a tweet, said “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.”
Addressing an election rally here on Wednesday, Modi said the former Prime Minister used INS Viraat as a private taxi and his in-laws were onboard the aircraft carrier.

 

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