INS Viraat was stationed for Rajiv Gandhi’s security, he was not holidaying on it: Ex-Lakshwadeep officer


Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stoked a fresh controversy by pulling out an old India Today article citing how late PM Rajiv Gandhi used the INS Viraat, a naval warship, to go on a holiday. Wajahat Habibullah, who was the then administrator of Lakshwadeep, has now told India Today TV that INS Viraat was indeed stationed in Lakshwadeep but the Gandhis were not holidaying aboard the ship.
A retired IAS officer, Habibullah remembered how Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi landed in Lakshwadeep in a government chopper. He said, “INS Viraat was in the sea for the PM’s backup security. The Prime Minister needs backup security and in the middle of the ocean, there’s no other option other than warships.”
He added, “Rajiv Gandhi went to Lakshwadeep on an official meeting and decided to stay back when his guests also joined him. No foreigner or even the guests were allowed onboard INS Viraat.”
Habibullah then went on to slam PM Narendra Modi for raking up the issue, which he said is a violation of the Model Code of Conduct. “It is a violation of the MCC if you go about making unverified statements. I would like my colleagues in the Election Commission to take note of this,” he added.
The India Today reports that PM Modi shared on social media to attack the Gandhi family states Rajiv Gandhi and his family were accompanied by Amitabh Bachchan and his family as well. Apart from the Gandhis and the Bachchans, the report states, “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.”
The report further states: “Questionable actions were, however, in evidence. India’s premier warship, INS Viraat, was used to transport the Gandhis and moved in the Arabian Sea for 10 days. Its daily expenditure at sea is astronomical as the Viraat travels with an entire retinue of escort ships. A submarine was also reported to be in attendance and some defense experts questioned the justification of depriving the navy of its most effective fighting component merely to suit Rajiv’s holiday plans. The considerable expense was also incurred in setting up a special satellite link up at Agatti for the duration of the holiday.”
This has now triggered a major war of words between the BJP and Congress with PM Modi, Union minister Arun Jaitley and several other leaders taking potshots at the Gandhis for using the INS Viraat for private vacations.

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