The Congress on Wednesday attacked the Narendra Modi government over the Reserve Bank of India’s list of wilful defaulters, and accused the Centre of weakening the entire banking architecture fiscally and imprudently.

The central bank’s information revealed that the top 50 defaulters have alone accounted for loans worth Rs 68,607 crore being written off in the banking system until September 2019. The central bank released the data in its response to a Right to Information query.

In a series of tweets late on Tuesday night, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman rebutted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s allegations on loan write-offs. She said it was an attempt to “mislead people in a brazen manner” and sensationalise facts. Gandhi had said the defaulters were “friends” of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“Nirmala Sitharaman ji, cleaning the banks of people’s money by writing off loans of absconders and fraudsters is not called ‘cleaning the system’,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted. “It’s called weakening the entire bank architecture fiscally and imprudently, if not maliciously.”

He also claimed that there was a discrepancy in the amount of money reportedly recovered from absconding diamantaire Mehul Choksi, Nirav Modi and fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya. “You tweeted that Rs 2,780.50 crore had been recovered from Modi-Choksi-Mallya,” he said. “On March 16, 2020, parliament was told that the Enforcement Directorate had recovered only Rs 96.93 crore in five years under PMLA-FEMA.”

Surjewala urged Sitharaman to give simple answers instead of “twisting facts”. He asked who allowed huge write-offs and why.

The Congress had alleged that the BJP has waived loans worth Rs 6.66 lakh crore since 2014 till September 2019, saying this “reflects the misconceived priorities and dishonest intentions of the Modi government”.

In her response, Sitharaman said wilful loan defaulters received benefits of “phone banking” under the United Progressive Alliance regime and that the Narendra Modi-led government has been after them for recovery.

She also provided details of certain high-profile cases, including that of Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi. Sitharaman claimed the Modi government had 9,967 recovery suits, 3,515 first information reports invoking Fugitive Amendment Act.

Indian banks are burdened with a bad loan pile of over Rs 10 lakh crore, according to Reuters.