From The Indian Express archives 30 years ago: Rajiv Gandhi in Lakshadweep

Rajiv Gandhi on board INS Viraat. (Express Archives)

At a campaign rally on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Rajiv Gandhi and his family, including his in-laws from Italy, had used the aircraft carrier INS Viraat as a personal taxi on a private 10-day vacation on an island.

The Indian Express published several news reports, features, and pictures relating to Rajiv s visit to Lakshadweep around New Year s Day in 1988. Some excerpts from The Indian Express s coverage:

December 16, 1987

Barren islet to host Rajiv s holiday

P Raman, New Delhi

The Prime Minister, Mr Rajiv Gandhi, who had spent the last year-end in the Andamans with his Italian in-laws and friends, will have his holiday this year in a barren island of the Lakshadweep group.

Securitymen, contractors and Congress (I) leaders are being pressed into service to prepare for the comforts of the Prime Minister s exclusive entourage, who, according to the present programme, will spend the week after Christmas in the island.

The Express front page story reporting the prime minister’s holiday.

Engineers and workers are building helipads and temporary hutments with modern facilities which have to be brought from the mainland, some 200 km to 400 km away….Almost everything except coconut and fish will have to be airlifted… This includes cooks, water and generators, in addition to the omnipresent securitymen and attendants.

December 28, 1987

Islands booked for PM

Express News Service, Cochin

The movement of people to and from the mainland to Lakshadweep has virtually been sealed for the Prime Minister s holiday in one of the uninhabited islands of the archipelago….Anybody who wants to go to the Dweep now has to wait till after the Prime Minister s holiday. The issue of tickets has been closed for all the ships till January 15. The reason given by officials was that all available seats were booked in advance by passengers and some seats were reserved for ministers and officials here in connection with the Prime Minister s visit.

Informed sources say preparations for the Prime Minister s holiday started about four months back…

READ | No ships specially perted for personal use of Gandhis: Retd Admiral on PM s INS Viraat remark

December 29, 1987

To top it all…

Express News Service, Cochin

The Lakshadweep administration has a pleasant surprise for the big contingent of Central ministers, officials and their family members, not to mention the Prime Minister, visiting the island.

Large quantities of ambalapazha palpayasam, one of the choicest puddings of Keralites, have been airlifted to Lakshadweep to treat the visiting dignitaries…

INS Viraat was decommissioned in 2017. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

December 30, 1987

PM s choice not dry

Express News Service, Cochin

Bangaram Island, chosen by the Prime Minister, Mr Rajiv Gandhi, to spend his year-end holiday, enjoys a special status in the archipelago.

It is the only island where consumption of liquor is permitted.

In all these other Muslim-majority islands, prohibition is strictly in force. The only other place where a traveller to Lakshadweep is allowed to drink is aboard ship.

…It is understood that the prime minister is planning to host a new year s party aboard a ship.

According to sources, cartons of some of the choicest brands of liquor have already been sent to Bangaram to cater to the needs of VIPs.

Chicken, meat and fresh vegetables are being airlifted from Cochin after thorough checks by health inspectors.

Read | Cong hits back at Modi s INS Viraat remark: You have made IAF jets your own taxi

January 24, 1988

The holiday that was

N Madhavan Kutty, Bangaram (Lakshadweep)

At least eight foreigners joined the Prime Minister and his family during their New Year holiday here. In all, the group consisted of 24 men, women and children. Looking after their needs were 70 persons from various departments, cooks and valets and naval personnel. Nearly 1,200 policemen drawn from Lakshadweep Police and Madhya Pradesh Armed Special Police, based at neighbouring Agatti island, were on patrol on the periphery of Bangaram.

Security was, naturally, tight, reinforced by a 24-hour watch by a naval fleet. According to reliable sources, among the Indian Navy vessels performing various duties in connection with the holiday were aircraft carrier INS Viraat, the frigates INS Vindhyagiri and INS Taragiri, and the landing craft carrier 39 INS Magar.

The Lakshadweep Administration s oil tankers MT Suheli and MT Bharat were also there. Passenger liners like MV Bharatseema and research vessels like Sagardeep had been taken off their regular duty and put on the holiday tasks.

Innumerable boats of the local administration, including 40 hp high-speed boats, and the Navy s yachting boats were pressed into service. The Navy also provided a windsurfer for the holiday makers…

…There was recreation aplenty as the Prime Minister and his party went swimming and boating and tuna fishing in the seas. Kabaddi with men and women lined up against each other provided the Indian touch. The New Year night was marked by a firelit party on the sands…

…The PM s powerful personal secretary, V George… had stayed back at INS Viraat along with Mani Shankar Iyer, Mrs Sarla Grewal, M M Jacob and others…

The Express Magazine cover, January 24, 1988.

Read | Gandhis holidayed on board INS Viraat when Rajiv was PM: Modi

January 24, 1988

The VVIP list

Express News Service, Cochin

The Prime Minister s party which holidayed at Lakshadweep consisted of Rajiv Gandhi, his wife Sonia and their two children, Rahul and Priyanka, Ajitabh Bachchan s three daughters,… Amitabh Bachchan, his wife Jaya, their children, Sweta and Abhishek,… Mrs Sonia Gandhi s mother, Mrs P Maino, her sister, Nadia Valdimero, and her child, G Valdimero, Sonia s brother-in-law, Walter Winci…, a German friend of Sonia s called Sabina…

From The Indian Express archives.