New Delhi: Launching a scathing attack on Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday called him a “clown prince” for lying about the Rafale fighter deal, the non-performing assets of banks and the Narendra Modi government allegedly waiving Rs 2.5 lakh crores loans of 15 industrialists. Accusing Mr Gandhi of leading the “falsehood campaign” the finance minister advised the Congress president that public discourse is a “serious activity, and not a laughter challenge”. Hitting back, the Congress called Mr Jaitley a “court jester” to the “Modi Sultanate” and said that the “abuse, diversion and deception” were the “desperate tools of a “Lying-Jait-LIE”.
Mr Jaitley, in a blog on his social media page, said: “The campaign of falsehood is entirely led by the Congress president. His strategy is simple — concoct a lie and repeat it as many times. This, at least, provides him some concocted material for his statements/speeches for otherwise an issueless Congress.”
Replying to Mr Gandhi’s charges made during his political rallies, Mr Jaitley said not a single rupee of any debtor had been waived by the BJP government and it was the UPA government which had given loans to the country’s 12 top defaulters and the Modi government was making recoveries.
“You lied on the Rafale deal, you lied on the NPAs. Your temperament to concoct facts raises a legitimate question — do people whose natural preference is falsehood deserve to be a part of the public discourse?” said Mr Jaitley, adding that the world’s largest democracy “must seriously introspect whether public discourse should be allowed to be polluted by the falsehoods of a ‘clown prince’?”
Countering Mr Gandhi’s charges, the Union minister said the previous Congress-led UPA government had “concealed” the loans despite defaults by rolling them over and the NPAs or bad loans were hidden under the carpet.On the Rafale issue, Mr Jaitley said the “Rafale concoctions” were the first big lie, and the second one stated repeatedly was that Mr Modi had waived off Rs 2.5 lakh crores of 15 industrialists. Listing the top 12 defaulters, that include the likes of Bhushan Steel and Essar Steel, Mr Jaitley said while UPA leaders are claiming that the non-performing assets when they exited the government in 2014 was only Rs 2.5 lakh crores, “the truth is that actually NPAs were hidden under the carpet”.
“In 2015, an asset quality review (AQR) was conducted by the Reserve Bank of India, and as a result of the AQR and subsequent transparent recognition by banks it was found that the NPAs were actually Rs 8.96 lakh crores, and the real amount was being hidden,” he said, adding that the UPA never took effective steps that could result in the recovery or reduction of NPAs.
Post-2014-15, the NPAs increased not because more monies were lent but because interest was mounting up on overdue amounts, he said. “Some defaulters were given a second restructuring so that the defaults could continue to be hidden,” the minister added.