The former Commanding officer of INS Viraat, the Navy aircraft carrier, has said the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had visited the Viraat on an official visit in 1987 and not on a holiday, no foreign nationals were on board the warship that day.
This contradicts the claim of the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, made at an election rally in New Delhi last evening where he said INS Viraat was used as a ‘private taxi’ by Rajiv Gandhi for himself and his in-laws who are Italian citizens.
Vice Admiral Vinod Pasricha (retd), who was commanding the INS Viraat when Rajiv Gandhi visited the aircraft carrier, spoke from Pune saying, 'It was an official visit. The PM (Rajiv), Sonia Gandhi and Rahul (then in his early teens) were picked up on a helicopter from Trivandrum and they sailed to Lakshadweep Islands for a meeting of the Islands development authority (IDA).'
The islands did not have a landing strip and going by ship was the only option, he added. It was an overnight journey and the Prime Minister often spends a day on warships, including aircraft carriers.
Meanwhile, Admiral L Ramdass (a former Navy Chief) and the Southern Navy Commander, has issued a statement saying he was on board INS Viraat that day and there were no foreigners. The PM and his spouse are allowed to use service aircraft and helicopters on official duties, he added.
Meanwhile, Mr.Modi himself visited the latest aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya in June 2014 and again in December 2015 and both times he was flown in a helicopter from Goa to land on the ship deck.
A statement issued by the Press Information Bureau on June 14, 2014 details Mr. Modi’s visit. 'On arrival at the Naval Air Station INS Hansa (Goa), the Prime Minister was received by Admiral RK Dhowan and accorded a ceremonial Guard of Honour. Thereafter, Shri Modi embarked the aircraft carrier at sea by helicopter.'