In Kaun Banega Crorepati, contestants in a tricky spot had the option of “Phone a friend”. During the UPA government (2004-2014), this term assumed a new meaning. Thousands of crores of unsecured loans were dished out by public sector banks to the likes of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi on a mere phone call. In some cases, defaulters managed to get new loans to pay off old debts.

I had written a piece in 2014 that a “Swachh Bharat” campaign for cleaning the Indian banking system of non-performing and restructured loans worth $100 billion would be required and that this would be a herculean task. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman delivered just the remedy in this year’s budget — a bad bank and an asset reconstruction company to resolve the non-performing loan issue and push lending to entrepreneurs.

Such was the extent of Congress’s benefaction to their khaas aadmi that the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went on record…

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