In a massive development on the INS Viraat allegation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, naval officer Commander VK Jaitly, who was posted on INS Viraat at that time, spoke to Republic TV and disputed the Congress's claim about then PM Rajiv Gandhi's '1987 Lakshadweep trip' being an 'official trip'.
Speaking to Republic TV's Editor Niranjan, he said that it is very easy for a person at a higher authority to convert a family tour into an official trip. Here's are excerpts of his interview which can be seen in the video above.
On another senior retired officer saying that it wasn't a private holiday to oppose the use of 'personal taxi' remark, Commander Jaitly said:
"It is very easy for a person at that level to convert any trip into an official programme. It is nothing very big. They (Gandhis) did it in the past, many others have done so, except I think present dispensation is an exception, that too only the higher authorities, people in lower levels must be doing it even now, arranging an official trip is very easy."
On being asked if foreigners were on board the navy vessel at the time, Commander Jaitly responded:
"I didn't see foreigners onboard. We had a party, Rajiv Gandhi & Sonia Gandhi attended. Yes, few more people were there with them but they weren't in the wardroom. Even if they were there, they may be in some other cabin. Maybe they were elsewhere in the ship. But I remember there were a few more."
On the claims by Congress leader that the late PM was 'entitled to vacation', Commander responded:
"Some people feel that they have the right to misuse the resources of the country for their family, its wrong, very very wrong. Converting vacation into an official trip is very very wrong. Resources should be used for which they were meant. It is very easy for a Prime Minister to declare any visit anywhere as official."
On being asked about the 'Welcome party' arranged by the Naval officials, Commander VK Jaitly replied
"There was a party. They were our guests, we took care, They were the PM and his wife. We did our best to take care of them. No one really felt anything bad because they were guests, but using resources for anybody's family is wrong. "
SENSATIONAL: Congress Accepts And Brazens Out Rajiv Gandhi's Use Of INS Viraat For Lakshadweep Vacation, Says "It Was His Right, Any PM Would Do So"
The controversy over the INS Viraat episode began when Prime Minister Modi had said on Wednesday in his poll rally at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan that the Nehru-Gandhi family misused and insulted the INS Viraat when former PM Rajiv Gandhi used the warship as a 'personal taxi' for himself and his in-laws for their vacation at an island in the Lakshadweep archipelago.
"Congress' naamdaar family had misused the pride of the country, INS Viraat, like its personal taxi. They had insulted it. This incident is of that time when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of the country and they had gone out on vacation for 10 days. During that time, INS Viraat was stationed to guard the maritime boundaries, but it was sent to bring the Gandhi family who was going on vacation. After that, INS Viraat had stopped at a special island with their entire family. It was there for 10 days. Among those who were holidaying with Rajiv Gandhi were his in-laws," PM Modi had said.
Meanwhile, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has not responded directly on INS Viraat charge by the PM but has said:
"You want to talk about Rajiv Gandhi, you want to talk about me, you can talk all you want. But make the citizens understand what you did in the Rafale matter. You tell the citizens what happened about the promise of employment that you made to the two crore people."
WATCH: Rahul Gandhi's First Response After PM Modi's 'INS Viraat Used As A Personal Taxi' Charge At Predecessor Rajiv Gandhi