In a report dated January 31, 1988, Anita Prathap wrote about how the then PM Rajiv Gandhi, his wife Sonia Gandhi and their family and friends enjoyed a holiday in an uninhabited island in Lakshwadeep. People in that entourage included:
But the list of invitees made news by itself. Theprivileged bunch
included four friends of Rahul and Priyanka, Sonia Gandhi’s sister, brother-in-law and their daughter, her widowed mother, R. Maino, her brother and a maternal uncle. Also present were former MP Amitabh Bachchan, his wife Jaya and their three children. The daughter of Amitabh’s brother Ajitabh, who is being investigated for suspected violation of the Foreign Exchange Regulations Act, had gone along too. The only other Indian guests were the wife and daughter of Bijendra Singh, brother of former Union minister Arun Singh. Two other foreigners completed the party.
What was incredible was that INS Viraat was used to take Rajiv Gandhi and his family over to those islands and his family treated, as the current Indian PM said, as their personal taxi.
The report also said how INS Viraat, the most important Naval warship was used as a “ferry” and the type of arrangements that were done for the Gandhis.
Questionable actions were, however, in evidence. India’s premier warship, INS Virat, was used to transport the Gandhis and moved in the Arabian Sea for 10 days. Its daily expenditure at sea is astronomical as the Virat travels with an entire retinue of escort ships. A submarine was also reported to be in attendance and some defence experts questioned the justification of depriving the navy of its most effective fighting component merely to suit Rajiv’s holiday plans. Considerable expense was also incurred in setting up a special satellite link up at Agatti for the duration of the holiday.
Not only was the warship there, but an entire retinue of escort ships and a submarine was in attendance! When Anita Prathap was asked now about the whole issue, she said that even at that time it was big news. But the Navy top officials were tight lipped, “because it involved a sitting Prime Minister”.
Rahul Gandhi has denied but not denied the whole thing. He says Rajiv Gandhi was on INS Virat for “an official visit”, and he was with him. Well, Admiral Ramdas has confirmed that the whole family was there and he hosted the dinner. So the WHOLE family was there, not just Rahul Gandhi. The question of course is what was Rajiv Gandhi and his family doing on INS Virat for PM’s so-called official visit? And why did they get off the Bangaram island?
“I would like to state unequivocally that this [allegation that Mr. Gandhi was on holiday with his family] was not the case,” former Navy Chief Admiral L. Ramdas said in a statement, with collated responses from other top officers of the Western Fleet at that time.
“There were no foreigners with them. I, as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief (FOC-in-C), Southern Naval Command, based in Cochin, also boarded INSViraat. 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,” he said. (source)
Now Aam Aadmi Party and Modi-hater Admiral Ramdas has “unequivocally denied” the story and narration by Anita Pratap now. 31 years after this story first came out and became popular! Even when at that time, this story had brought up strong reactions from the BJP. Admiral Ramdas has another friend Vice Admiral Pasricha who is saying the same thing though.
The reporting from that time is quite revealing.
Here is another story.
And then there is an officer who was on the ship – Commander VK Jaitly. He, however, confirmed the India Today story by Anita Prathap.
We have to remember that Admiral Ramdas has been accused of fudging support letter that he sent to the President “on behalf of the veterans”. Many came out to say that they had never signed or lent any support to that. He has done his damndest best – even using devious means that could hurt the very forces he worked in – to push a particular political agenda, which he espoused as the Co-founder of AAP.
As for the other Vice Admiral, how do you think will he even admit that whatever happened at INS Virat really happened? If he does, not only will he be hounded for dereliction of duty and putting the nation’s largest warship then at risk but also tarnish his entire legacy.
On the other hand the junior officers at that time, like Commander VK Jaitly, and others (which Rahul Kanwal mentions) have no such legacy issues or risks.
It may actually be better to listen to those who were on board as junior officers than to the Admirals and Vice-Admirals who, either have a political agenda to push or their legacy to safeguard!
You see after all, even then these same officials who were at the helm were “tightlipped” as the reporter Anita Prathap said in her interview now. Would they speak up now? Really?! They have been compromised from that day onward!
Are Forces’ Chiefs being used for political defense?
What one finds most appalling in this entire episode is not just how the Gandhi family and their friends used the warship as a ‘personal taxi’, but also how the past Admirals and Vice-Admirals are being used to score political points and save one political family from embarrassment. And, worse, they are willing participants in that.
Irrespective of what the truth was – and a 31 year old unchallenged reports cannot be that untrue anyway – why did any Chief of Armed forces have to come out to do duty for the Congress family? Why does Admiral Ramdas think that he needs to indict Modi or back Rajiv Gandhi? Yes, he has a political agenda, but does he not have any modicum of respect for his days in the Indian Navy to understand that he cannot go around playing political football?
What now when Admirals are saying one thing and junior officers another? How does that impact the Navy as it stands today?
Gandhi family is a curse on the Indian nation. For it not only subverts every institution and every norm and treats the tax payer and citizens as canon-fodder but worse, it has repeatedly used the forces for its own gains, profits and entertainment. Those – like Field Marshall Sam Maneckshaw or General Thimmayya or General VK Singh – who did not bow down to their diktats, were humiliated beyond imagination.
For them to raise the question of politicization of the Indian Armed forces is quite insidious.
And that brings me to the final thought – if people like Admiral Ramdas – who hold political ideologies that trump their responsibility to the Armed Forces where he served at the helm, then is it possible that they were compromising the Armed Forces when they were serving? Here, I am not just talking about serving the Gandhi family and their friends on INS Viraat!