Did Rajiv Gandhi holiday on INS Viraat? Navy answers
On May 9, 2019 while addressing a rally at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that Rajiv Gandhi used INS Viraat as a "personal taxi" for a holiday when he was prime minister.
"Friends, have you ever heard of anyone going on a holiday with his family on a warship? The biggest namdaar family of the Congress had used INS Viraat, the country's pride, as its personal taxi," Narendra Modi had said.
"INS Viraat was securing the maritime boundaries at the time. But it was sent to fetch the Gandhi family going on vacation... In the list of holidayers were in-laws. Was the country's security jeopardised or not?" Modi had asked.
A day before, PM Narendra Modi had quote tweeted an India Today Magazine report from the 1908s on Rajiv Gandhi's INS Viraat trip titled 'Idyllic vacation for the Gandhis in the Lakshadweep archipelago'.
Ever imagined that a premier warship of the Indian armed forces could be used as a taxi for a personal holiday?Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 8, 2019
One Dynasty did it and that too with great swag.
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The report from the 1980s had stated that Rajiv Gandhi was accompanied by his wife Sonia Gandhi, children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi and in-laws during their trip to the Lakshadweep.
India Today TV filed a Right to Information query to know from the Indian Navy about the entire episode.
In the query, India Today TV asked how many times Indian Navy warships have been used for personal holidays and by whom.
In its reply, the Integrated Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence (Navy) said, "Unauthorised/private journeys are not permitted onboard Indian Navy ships".
In response to a question if the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi used the INS Viraat for his personal vacation in the Lakshadweep in 1987, the Indian Navy said, "Late prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had embarked on INS Viraat off Trivandrum on December 28, 1987 and disembarked off Minicoy on December 29, 1987 in his capacity as the Prime Minister of India."
As to who all went with Rajiv Gandhi, the Navy replied: "Smt Sonia Gandhi had embarked INS Viraat along with the Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. No details of the entourage of Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is available with the concerned directorate at IHQ MoD (N)."
When specifically asked if foreigners were also allowed to enter the INS Viraat along with Rajiv Gandhi in 1987, the defence ministry it had no information about any foreigners onboard INS Viraat on record.
When asked about the daily expenditure of INS Viraat in 1987, the Navy said that no details of the expenditure incurred during the visit are with the concerned directorate.