How Navy assets misused during Rajiv Gandhi’s holiday at Bangaram Island

Prime Minister Narendra Modi did a sensational disclosure during concluding phase of 7-phase long Lok Sabha-2019 elections that his predecessor Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister (1984-89) enjoyed a week-long holiday in a tiny island (mis-)using precious Naval assets including the gigantic aircraft career INS Viraat.

Rajiv’s entourage included his Italian passport-holder wife Sonia, their two children; Sonia’s mother P Maino, Sonia’s sister Nadia Valdimero and her child, Sonia’s brother-in-law Walter Winci, Sonia’s German friend Sabina; his friend Amitabh Bacchan with his family of Jaya Bacchan and their children, bother Ajitabh Bacchan and his family, in all 24 people with a few foreigners.

The island was selected for their regular year-end holiday because that was the only island in the Muslim dominated archipelago wherein alcohol consumption was permitted. The Lakshadweep administration had constructed eight permanent huts with a total of 26 beds wherein alcohol flowed freely day and night. Cartons of choicest imported liquor found their way to Bangaram to water thirsty throats of those VIPs while chicken, mutton, fish, 40 crates of cold drinks, Cadbury chocolates, 105 kg Basmati rice of most expensive variety, crates of dry fruits and fresh vegetables were airlifted to the island from Cochin. Many of these were imported like an elite thin imported Italian bread, shark-fin soup etc. were available aplenty to suit delicate tastes of visiting foreign VIPs.

Helipad was constructed for sophisticated anti-submarine Sea King helicopter to ferry them to other islands and carry all supplies. Entry into the Island was barred for all others during the grand holiday and entire revenue generating movement of tourists and other officials came to a sudden halt for a fortnight. Experienced cooks were brought in from Government owned guest houses in mainland while construction workers had been busy four months in advance in preparations. Complete destruction of marine habitat at the island was quite a small price that nation paid for a Prime Minister committed to the nation.

Looking after their joyous moods were 70 persons from various departments, Navy, cooks and valets; 1200 policemen from MP ASP were continuously on patrol around the island; naval fleet comprising of INS Viraat, frigates INS Vindhyagiri, Taragiri and Ganga, a submarine, landing aircraft career INS Magar, oil tankers MT Suheli and MT Bharat, passenger liners like MV Bharatseema and research vessels like Sagardeep constantly supervised revelers. Navy arranged Flypast for entertainment of supreme guests and they all danced in joy on the wide deck of INS Viraat to their heart’s content.

At a huge cost, a US satellite was hooked up to maintain vigil over revellers from Space. Innumerable boats of Lakshadweep Administration and Navy’s yatching boats were pressed in service of holidayers. To ensure flawless care of VIPs, almost 40 private boats were reserved at Agatti island in close proximity. Water sports teams of Navy, too, chipped in and ensured memorable holiday for the visiting party.

The grand holiday party included five ministers, P. Shiv Shankar of Planning, Bhajan Lal of Environment and Forests, Arjun Singh of Communications, Chintamani Panigrahi of Home and Sukh Ram of Planning. Three ministers PVN Rao, Rajesh Pilot and Jagdish Tytler were to join them later. Officials who accompanied them were Scientific Advisor to PM MGK Menon, Tourism Secretary SK Mishra, Environment and Forest Secretary TN Seshan, SN Dwivedi of Ocean Development, Dr. Sangal of Telecommunications, Dr. Manju Sharma of Island Development Authority and PK Biswas, Planning Advisor.

Many of them were accompanied by their wives and children. They all were privileged with the option of staying at a posh hotel in Wellingdon Island instead of ‘Gandhian’ government guest houses. Comfortably seated in Naval HQ, Mani Shankar Aiyer co-ordinated all these arrangements and left everyone behind profoundly embittered and angry with his brutish, arrogant and snobbish behavior. Such a magnificent ‘austerity’ was observed when large tracts of the country were undergoing severe drought and PM Rajiv Gandhi himself pontificated over austerity on several occasions.

Weaker sections and fixed income groups were forced to observe ‘austerity’ owing to rising prices of petrol, sugar, edible oils, coal and steel while the joy-party thoroughly enjoyed once in a life-time picnic. It was in fact third in a row after 1985 and 1986 that began during ‘glorious’ Nehruvian era as nation ‘owed’ so much to The Royal Dynasty. However by all means, at the end of day, it was declared an austere holiday.

The ‘austere’ holiday was sprinkled with comfortable and recreational official engagements too for the nation to be proud of their ‘hard-working’ prime minister even during his well-deserved/well-earned holidays too. And for generations to come to remember all that so adoringly. When they arrived at the Island sailing by INS Viraat, the party was accorded a traditional welcome with dances and beating of drums.

Deeply impressed, Rajiv Gandhi advised them to maintain and preserve their cultural identity, donated Rs 1 lakh as nucleus to fund an award for boat-race winner, attended a meeting of Island Development Council and inaugurated STD facility by calling Kerala Governor P Ramachandran. Sonia Gandhi and her Italian guests moved around even in most restricted zones of the aircraft career like the way you and I move around in Saket City Mall, where even senior naval officers were prohibited.

Gandhi had every privilege to enjoy an ‘austere’ holiday with utter humility as he had undergone prolonged spells of intense pressure and stress while adopting some ‘historic’ decisions during his one-term tenure in nation’s interest. Let us have a bird’s eye-view of his ‘splendid’ performance as PM that earned him a well-deserved holiday escorted by his extended family at Bangaram, a highly security sensitive island –

His IPKF operation was a monumental disaster as our soldiers were fighting LTTE, migrant Tamilian population in a foreign land for a foreign government. That too, after LTTE were trained earlier in warfare by Bharatiya Army. When our troops were air-dropped for the combat, LTTE fired from ground and they dropped dead. So 1200 dead bodies of our very precious brave-hearts rained on Sri Lankan land and 15,000 lives were lost in all, confirmed by his MEA Natwar Singh. Nowhere else in military history of the world has any such precedent.

Simpleton Rajiv Gandhi was conned into an agreement by the cunning jackal, Sri Lankan President Jayawardene. He did not consult even Cabinet Committee on Security and even threatened to impose IPKF-II too.

He engineered massive rigging of Kashmir Assembly Elections-1987 in favour National Conference headed by Abdullahs. That stoked fires of already existing violent separatist terrorism leading to thousands being slaughtered for right and wrong reasons. Rajiv Gandhi is single-handedly responsible for all that massive blood-bath in Kashmir Valley.

In Shah Bano case, he snatched away even Rs 200 a month maintenance awarded to one 60-year-old destitute, thereby validated social evil of Triple Talaq by overturning Supreme Court’s judgement. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986 ruined lakhs of Muslim women tormented by the social vice of Triple Talaq and drew Muslim appeasement politics to the lowest ebb.

Kickback scandal of Bofors assumed international dimensions. His Italian wife and her cohorts robbed the nation of wealth and security behind his back and the Nincompoop was left pleading in Lok Sabha before Opposition stalwarts like a school boy, “I did not steal the money.” He laid down solid foundations of the institution of ‘large-scale corruption of shameless variety’. Nation shall ever remain ‘indebted’ to him for such an exquisite contribution and he was quite righteously conferred upon highest honour of ‘Bharat Ratna’ by his own party’s government.

The Bhopal Gas tragedy was extremely painful. Thousands were killed, families were ruined yet he allowed honourable exit of Union Carbide Chairman as a measure of quid pro quo in exchange of his chum who was imprisoned in US jails on drug charges. For allowing the American to exit the country in a government aircraft, he earned a word of admiration with smiles from US President Ronald Reagan. Not only Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi proved himself to be one of the worst traitors in nation’s history but also one of the worst back-stabbers too.

First anti-Sikh riots in nation’s history was inspired and engineered by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi single-handedly. Hundreds of defenceless Sikh men, women and children were burnt alive across the country under official patronage and their only crime was, armed guards who slaughtered his mother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi happened to be Sikhs. And why Sikhs? Because PM Indira Gandhi had destroyed Golden Temple at Amritsar in a bid to catch and kill JS Bhindranwala. Why did she intend to catch and kill Bhindranwala? Because he had gone out of her control as he was nurtured by Indira Gandhi to obliterate Akalis in Punjab. Finally, who is/are responsible for the serial tragedies? Indira Gandhi and her son, Rajiv Gandhi alone. Brutal butchery of Sikhs had a deleterious effect on nation’s psyche. Anti-national elements landed up with a golden opportunity on a platter to declare it Hindu-Sikh riots instead of Congress-Sikh riots and sowed saplings of Khalistan movement. Are these pernicious damages wrought by Rajiv Gandhi really estimable? I do not believe so.

After conscience-rattling details of his damned picnic in Bangaram island appeared in Indian Express and a cartoon of RK Laxman published, their offices were raided by IT authorities in search of concealed income and tax-evasion. ‘Bharat Ratna’ Rajiv Gandhi didn’t cease and desist at that. He pushed Anti-Defamation Bill 1988 to throttle freedom of media. Then he followed it up with Post Office Amendment Bill which President Zail Singh declined to endorse. In June 1988, national capital was rife with strong rumours that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi may be dismissed by the President any day. Those were the days, months and years of dejection, despondence and disgust for the nation.

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi has only blunders and tragedies to the dis-credit of his tenure. He rightly earns the dubious honour of being The worst Prime Minister by beating his mother Indira Gandhi who earns just one positive score of Bangladesh victory. Otherwise it would have been a very tough competition between mother and son for the dubious accolade. There is an interesting feature with the Nehru-Gandhi-Vadra Dynasty overlooked by many. Every successor had been worse than his / her predecessor. Indira Gandhi was worse than JL Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi was worse than Indira Gandhi and now one shudders to visualise what would be the profile of Rahul Gandhi if at all he succeeds Rajiv Gandhi as he had once declared arrogantly, “Had I wished, I would have become Prime Minister even at the age of 25 itself.”

Now reverting to the real issue of ‘Viraat’ Naval Picnic in a sensitive security zone at Bangaram island, the then Admiral JG Nadkarni probably had no authority and gumption to put his foot down on the brazen demand of entitlement for ‘The Royal Family’ jeopardising nation’s security. If in reality he had no authority to reject Rajiv Gandhi’s picnic plans involving Naval assets, Government must delegate authority to enable not only Naval Heads but also Air Force and Army Chiefs to be entirely at liberty to disallow such demands from politicians or bureaucrats. Such a refusal must be duly entered into their confidential dossiers to neutralise any adverse entry by political masters anytime later. In addition to this liberty, three Service Chiefs must have an emphatic say in operational decisions. If a bullet is fired at Army at the border, they must enjoy complete freedom to retaliate in an appropriate manner. They should not be constrained by politicians to seek their approval first before firing back. If a remote-controlled Government drag their feet in procuring bullet-proof jackets for Army, modern fighter jets for Air Force or nuclear submarines for nation’s defence, they should be allowed to complain to President or Supreme Court asking for relevant orders. Operational freedom conceded by Modi Government must be legally institutionalised. Security Forces are an essential asset for the nation and every Government must be Constitutionally bound to meet their professional requirements earliest possible.