The war of words between the Congress and the BJP government over the list of wilful defaulters escalated on Wednesday, with former Finance Minister
P Chidambaram accusing Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of taking shield behind technical rules and asking the government why it has taken the technical loan write-off route for fugitives like Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya.
Hitting back at Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who had said wilful defaulters were beneficiaries of phone banking under the UPA regime and the Narendra Modi government is chasing them to recover the dues, he also asked the Government “break up the NPAs into pre-2004, 2004 to 2014 and post 2014” arguing that it “will give us an idea when the loans were given and which loans have become NPA.”
“You keep on throwing these accusations that all these loans were given during the UPA regime. Is the government seriously suggesting that no loans were given after 2014? Or that all the loans given after 2014 are performing loans? I mean, what do they take the people of India for? We may be stupid, we’re not so stupid. Loans have been given after 2014, loans were given prior to 2004 also. Give the breakup?,” he said.
Responding to Sitharaman’s statement that no loan is waived off and that provisions are made for NPAs as per the four-year provisioning cycle laid down by the RBI, Chidambaram accused her of taking shield behind the technical rule and asked why is she applying the technical rule to those who have been declared a fugitive or an absconder. “We understand the technical rules of the RBI. We are not on the technicality …There are defaulters, there are wilful defaulters, there are wilful defaulters who are staying back in India facing inquiries and trying their best to pay back and there are wilful defaulters, who have fled India and are being declared fugitives.”
“Your RBI rule can apply maybe to the first second and third categories. After four years of full provisioning is made, you can technically write off the loan. That you can do for defaulters, wilful defaulters and wilful defaulters who have stayed back and trying to face an inquiry. But why do you apply that rule to a wilful defaulter who has fled India and your government has declared him a fugitive?… Why does this rule apply to the Nirav Modis and the Vijay Mallyas and the Mehul Choksis,” he said. Taking a dig at the FM, he said “a FM who was silent for the last 37 days has suddenly sprung to life and sprung to the defence of these fugitives. Isn’t that a little surprising and ironical?”
On Sitharaman’s remark that scheduled commercial banks had written off Rs 1.45 lakh during the UPA period, he said: “I am sure between 2004 and 2014, banks were applying the rule and technically writing off 1.6 lakh crore, but by the same token, between 2014 and 2019, Modi government has written off 6.66 lakh crore. So, when you mention 1.6 lakh crore should not the FM also mention the 6.66 lakh crore rupees that her government has written off between 2014 and 2019…..But the point we are asking is, these are fugitives. They fled India under your nose. You have declared them fugitives and absconders. Why are you applying this rule to them?” he said.
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