Bharatiya Janata Party MP Varun Gandhi on Saturday took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comment on “muft ki revdi” – or freebies – claiming that the loans of nearly Rs 10 lakh crore of corrupt businessmen have been waived in the last five years.
Revdi, a type of sweet, has been at the centre of political and legal debate since last month Modi said that political parties announcing freebies to voters was a dangerous trend for the development and well-being of the country.
“Those promoting revdi culture feel that by distributing free revdis to people, they can buy them,” he had said at a rally in Uttar Pradesh, according to The Indian Express. “Together we need to defeat this thinking. Revdi culture needs to be removed from the country’s politics.”
On Saturday, Gandhi tweeted a list of bad loans that have been written off since the financial year 2017-’18. The list was collated on the basis of a reply given in the Rajya Sabha by Minister of State for Finance Bhagwat Karad on August 2.
Banks in India have written off Rs 9,91,640 crore as bad loans between the financial years 2017-’18 and 2021-’22, the minister had said in his reply to a question asked by Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge.
“[Businessmen] Mehul Choksi and Rishi Agarwal top the list of those who have taken ‘muft ki revdi’”, Gandhi wrote in his tweet, citing data from the finance ministry. “Who has the first claim over the government’s assets?”
Geetanjali Gems, a jeweller owned by Mehul Choksi, who is an accused person in the Punjab National Bank scam, and the Rishi Agarwal owned-ABG Shipyards, which has also been accused of bank fraud, were among the top five loan defaulters, according to the reply given by the Centre.
The ‘revdi’ debate
Soon after Modi said that the “revdi culture” should be discouraged, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had commented that providing free water, electricity and healthcare to citizens should not be called so.
Political commentators have noted that the prime minister’s comment was targeted at rivals such as the Aam Aadmi Party, which have built their support base through welfare schemes funded by government subsidies.
Meanwhile, a Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli has also been hearing a petition on the matter. Advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has sought directions to file criminal cases against political parties for luring voters with freebies.
At a hearing on the matter on August 3, the Centre told the court that offering freebies to voters will have an adverse impact on the country’s economy. This was after the court asked the central government why it was hesitant to take a stand on the matter.
At the last hearing on the matter, the court suggested that an expert body consisting of various stakeholders such as the government, the Niti Aayog, the Finance Commission, the Law Commission, the Reserve Bank of India, and members of the Opposition should be formed to give their suggestions on the matter.
The petition will again be heard on August 8.