‘My statements taken out of context,’ says Nitin Gadkari on Mallya comment

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n Thursday, Nitin Gadkari had said that it was “not right” to call someone (fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya) a “fraud” who had repaid loans for 40 years but defaulted once he entered the aviation sector and ran into problems. A day after that the Union minister chose to deflect criticism by accusing the media of taking his remarks out of context.

Gadkari had said at a summit organised by the Times Group on Thursday, “For 40 years, Mallya had been regularly paying interest on loans. He started facing problems after entering the aviation sector, and suddenly he became a thief? If a person repays the interest for 50 years but defaults once, does everything suddenly become a fraud? This mindset is not correct,” adding that he has no business relationship with Mallya.

Vijay Mallya faces extradition from the United Kingdom for alleged bank fraud and money laundering amounting to an estimated Rs 9,000 crore.

However, after facing criticism for his comment, he issued a clarification on Friday. “I only said that if Vijay Mallya has done any wrong and an investigation is underway, then the investigation is right and suitable,” news agency ANI quoted Gadkari as saying.

“I had also said that his (Mallya) account was a prime account for 40 years. It went for a toss on the 41st year. Ups and downs are bound to happen in business. Both my statements have been taken out of context,” he added.

Gadkari claimed that he was trying to point out the difference between business cycle downturns and financial fraud. “My statement is about support during downturns to protect jobs. Fraud is completely unacceptable,” he said.

On December 10, a London court ordered Mallya’s extradition in a major boost to the government’s efforts to bring back the fugitive businessman. Days before the hearing, the 62-year-old former owner of the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines offered to repay the entire principal amount of Rs 9,000 crore to banks in India.

Gadkari had to issue statements requiring a clarification previously as well. A couple of months ago, he said during a TV show that the BJP leadership pushed party members to make “tall promises” to the people in 2014 because it was confident of never coming to power. In his retraction, the minister dubbed the report as “100% baseless”.