[India], May 09 (ANI): As Prime Minister Narendra Modi stirred a controversy by alleging that former PM Rajiv Gandhi used warship INS Viraat as a "personal taxi" for a vacation with his Italian in-laws, former Navy Chief, Admiral (retd.) L. Ramdas said that the charge was "completely and absolutely wrong".
Ramdas, who was the southern naval chief at that time, also denied that there were any Italians onboard the ship. He said, as Prime Minister and Chairman of the Island Development Authority, Gandhi had visited Lakshadweep islands on an official trip.
"Completely wrong and sad. We picked him (Rajiv Gandhi) up from Trivandrum from the national athletic championship, where he was the chief guest. We picked him up in a helicopter and went to Lakshadweep. He came to Viraat. He was with us for two nights. Next morning he left. For two days we showed him the Islands," he told reporters here."He was chairman of IDA, there was a meeting. So he wanted to see the Island, His wife was there," he added.
Notably, Admiral Ramdas in 2015 was removed as the Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) internal ombudsman (Lokpal). In the ongoing elections he has extended support to AAP's East Delhi candidate Atishi. Also his wife, Lalita Ramdas, is an AAP member.
Asked whether anybody from Italy was there, he dismissed the question derisively saying, "laddoo laddoo, pede".
Admiral Ramdas also said he had not seen Rahul then but conceded he could have been there when he was told another official at that time had seen him. "He (Rajiv Gandhi) was Prime Minister then. The claim by Prime Minister Modi is absolutely wrong."
Another Navy veteran, Retired Vice Admiral Vinod Pasricha also rejected Modi's claims and told ANI, "What has been stated in the news is not correct. Former Prime Minister came on an official visit on the ship for two days in end of December. He was visiting the ANN islands for some meetings. Once every year he would either go to ANN (Andaman and Nicobar) or Lakshadeep to meet with local administration. Only he, his wife and son plus one or two other were present. There was no foreigner. They were onboard for two days and they did not host any function onboard. They didn't go out for any parties."
However, Rear Admiral (Retd) Shekhar Mittal, who is currently holding the post of MD and CEO of Center of Excellence in Maritime and shipbuilding (CEMS), backed Modi's claim saying, "I personally do not have any doubt, as I believe the Prime Minister. I am very clear, I am not a person who doubts the statement of Prime Minister."
"I don't know all this details. But yes, if you say it was an extended holiday for 10 days with family members and in-laws then it has very different connotations. Since, the Prime Minister (Modi) has made that statement publically I am sure there has to be a certain amount of merit or truth in that," he added.
Echoing similar sentiments, Commander VK Jaitly, who was then a Lieutenant and was posted on the warship as Weapon Maintenance Officer, stated that Rajiv Gandhi and his wife Sonia Gandhi had used warship INS Viraat to travel for a holiday, while adding that officials of the Indian Navy too were stationed for them.
"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. Commander VK Jaitly," he tweeted.
Prime Minister Modi while addressing a rally in Delhi launched a scathing attack on Gandhi family claiming that INS Virat was used as a "personal taxi" by them for 10 days while they were vacationing at an island.
Accusing the Gandhi family of compromising with national security, Modi claimed that Indian Navy personnel were stationed at the island in service of late Rajiv Gandhi and his family.
Modi was referring to the Lakshadweep vacation took by Former prime minister and his family in 1987.
"Even Navy personnel were put on service of Rajiv Gandhi and his family while they were vacationing at an island. INS Virat was also stationed at the island for 10 days during that time. At the time when INS Virat was positioned for protection of maritime boundaries, it was sent to take Rajiv Gandhi and his family to an island for their holiday. Even his in-laws were onboard INS Virat. Is it not a compromise of national security?" Modi said at the Ramlila Maidan rally. (ANI)