Bhopal: Responding to media reports that late PM Rajiv Gandhi had used INS Viraat for an ‘official trip’ and not for ‘family tour’ as suggested by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman quoted a crew form the warship to refute the claim.
The union minister who was addressing the media at BJP head office in Bhopal on Thursday was asked about her remarks on Rajiv Gandhi’s said family trip on Viraat despite the fact retired Vice Admiral Vinod Pasricha claiming that Gandhi was on an official trip.
Sitharaman said it was not only her comment but an article published on the issue in a leading magazine way back in 2013 also supporting it.
She claimed she hasn’t seen whatever the retired Vice Admiral had said but she did see something her staff member told as she was on her way to BJP office in Bhopal.
“A person who has identified himself as a crew of Viraat has claimed the Rajiv Gandhi did take the tour with family and in-laws,” said the minister, adding she could offer the copy of the said statement to the media.
The Defence Minister also claimed that this fact was nothing new and has been in public domain for years with a leading magazine even carrying an article on this in 2013.
“What would the new government do on this, I won’t be able to comment right now,” said the minister. She added that the party which brazenly misused the army, navy and air force is now accusing PM Modi of politicising the armed forces.
Trashing Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s accusation against the Prime Minister over Rafale deal, the Defence minister claimed it was like mounting a tiger and now the Supreme Court, CAG and others have offered the clean chit to PM, Gandhi does not know how to get off that tiger.
On a query that PM Modi while addressing rallies in Madhya Pradesh wasn’t talking about issues and was deviating persistently also attacking opponents more often, Sitharaman retorted saying he refers to government policies but also reserves the right to respond to opponents from his dais.
The Defence minister claimed PM Modi gets letters from the public asking about surgical strikes so he is required to answer them from the stage.
To a pointed query that BJP was attacking Congress over terrorism but it was this party which had released terrorist Azar Masood in 1999, the senior leader claimed it was a decision of an all-party meeting taken in consideration of the pain and tears of those present in the hijacked plane.
“You (Congress) can’t side with relatives of the victims then and now blame the BJP for the release after all these years when the situation is different,” she said.
The government hasn’t released any official figure of casualties in Balakot air strikes but the related details were already present in the public domain, said the minister on being asked about what was the source of conflicting death toll offered by the BJP leaders.