NEW DELHI :
Trading of charges between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Opposition Congress over banks writing off ₹68,607 crore for India’s top 50 wilful defaulters intensified on Wednesday. The Congress accused the government of hiding information over the write-offs, while the BJP said the opposition party was misleading the country.
The defaulters’ list, produced by the Reserve Bank of India following a Right to Information (RTI) request, names several individuals facing investigations, declared fugitive economic offenders, and people facing extradition.
The chief spokesperson of the Congress, Randeep Singh Surjewala, held an online press conference on the issue on Wednesday, a day after former party president Rahul Gandhi criticized the government over the write-offs.
Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had late on Tuesday night posted a series of tweets critical of Gandhi, saying that he needs to introspect why his party failed to play the role of a constructive Opposition.
The Congress also fielded former Union finance minister and senior party leader P. Chidambaram to highlight how the Union government needs to step in to protect 110 million Indians connected to the medium, small and micro enterprises. The queries of the Congress were limited to why the government was not making the data public and why the write-off was done for fugitives, Chidambaram said.
“You hide the information. You refuse to answer the question. You don’t give the breakup and you keep on throwing these accusations (that) all these loans were given during United Progressive Alliance regime. Is the government seriously suggesting that no loans were given after 2014? Or that all loans given after 2014 are performing loans? What do they take the people of India for?" Chidambaram asked in an online press conference on Wednesday.
The Congress has tried to link the loan write-offs for defaulters with the government’s appeal to people for donations and austerity measures such as freezing dearness allowance hikes.
“Why would you apply this rule (by the Reserve Bank of India) to a wilful defaulter who has fled India and whom your own government has declared a fugitive? That is the question we have been asking," Chidambaram said.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar too took on the Congress. “@RahulGandhi should take tuition from @PChidambaram_IN on the difference between “write off" and “waive off". @narendramodi govt has not waived off any loan. “Write off" is a normal accounting process. It doesn’t stop recovery or action against defaults," Javadekar tweeted on Wednesday morning.
Over the last one month, the Congress and BJP have sparred over a series of issues especially those related to the Union government’s role with respect to controlling the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The wilful defaulters’ controversy is one of the first big political issues since the Parliament session ended last month.
PTI contributed to this story