Home Political History of India How Jawaharlal Nehru used Indian Navy assets not just for vacation, but to ‘pay respects’ to Edwina Mountbatten after she died

How Jawaharlal Nehru used Indian Navy assets not just for vacation, but to ‘pay respects’ to Edwina Mountbatten after she died

Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru had in fact used INS Delhi to vacation with his family as well.

Prime Minister Modi yesterday stirred a hornet’s nest when he mentioned how Rajiv Gandhi used Indian Navy Warship INS Virat for his personal use. The warship was used to ferry the Gandhi family to a tiny Lakshwadeep island for a 10-day long vacation.

PM referred to the Gandhi family’s vacation in 1987. The holidaying group included Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi’s mother, her brother and a maternal uncle. Also present were then MP Amitabh Bachchan, his wife Jaya Bachchan and their three children, daughter of Amitabh’s brother Ajitabh, and former minister Arun Singh’s brother Bijendra Singh’s wife and daughter. The location for the vacation was Bangaram, a small uninhabited island in Lakshadweep archipelago. INS Viraat, the lone carrier of Indian navy at that time, was used to transport the Gandhi family and their companions, which moved in the Arabian sea for 10 days for this vacation. An aircraft carrier does not move alone in the sea, a carrier is the nerve centre of a carrier battle group and it is always surrounded by several warships. Even a submarine was also present during the trip. This means a huge expenditure.

As the island was uninhabited, everything needed for the guests was needed to be transported from other places. The Lakshadweep administration looked after the logistics of the 10-day vacation, and their helicopter was pressed into service for this purpose.

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The tradition to use Navy assets for their personal use was not started by Rajiv Gandhi. Jawaharlal Nehru had pioneered this abhorrent culture.

Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru had in fact used INS Delhi to vacation with his family as well. Photos that have now surfaced reveal that Nehru used INS Delhi, which was a light cruiser built for the Navy in 1933 and was known as HMS Achilles in the British Raj, in 1950 to vacation with his family.

In the photos, one can see the presence of Indira Gandhi, and Sanjay Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi as children.

While the tradition of misusing Indian Navy assets started in 1950 with Jawaharlal Nehru, there was another incident that has seldom been spoken off that goes to show how the Gandhi family crossed the borders of propriety when it comes to using Indian assets for their personal use.

The affair between Jawaharlal Nehru and Countess Edwina Mountbatten is no secret. In an article that called Mountbatten “man-eater”, dailymail.co.uk recounted how Mountbatten fell in love with Nehru and how her promiscuity took a toll on her children.

According to her daughter Pamela‘She found in Panditji [Nehru] the companionship and equality of spirit and intellect that she craved. Each helped overcome loneliness in the other.’

Countess Mountbatten’s wish was to be buried at sea and when she died in 1960, her mortal remains were brought to Portsmouth. Family mourners, including Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Andrew of Greece, watched as the coffin was carried aboard HMS “Wakeful”. The Prince was followed aboard by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Mountbatten, and his two daughters. Some 12 miles off Portsmouth, “Wakeful’s” engines were stopped, and the last words were spoken. Then a tribute was paid to her.

There was, however, an interesting tribute that was paid to Lady Mountbatten. When Edwina died in 1960, aged 59, and was buried at sea by Lord Mountbatten in accordance with her wishes, Nehru sent the Indian Navy frigate INS Trishul as an escort and had a wreath cast in her memory.

Lady Pamela Hicks, daughter of Lady Mountbatten also says that on her death in 1960, Edwina was buried at sea as per her wish. As her bereaved family steamed away from the scene after casting wreaths at the spot, the Indian frigate INS Trishul “quietly took our place and, on Panditji’s instructions, marigolds were scattered upon the waves”.

Interestingly, after the Rajiv Gandhi fiasco was mentioned by the Prime Minister, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy too had an anecdote of his own.

Swamy said that his father-in-law, JD Kapadia was the Defence Secretary in 1950s. He had refused to give permission to use Airforce plane to ferry one of Nehru’s “European mistresses”. Later, however, Swamy says his father-in-law was transferred and the next Defence Secretary okayed it.

The Gandhi family has long treated India and her assets as their personal property. Whether it was Rajiv Gandhi using a Naval ship for a vacation, Jawaharlal Nehru doing the same, or him using a Naval ship to scatter marigolds in the sea after Mountbatten died.

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